Roona Begum
Abdul Rehman holds his daughter Runa Begum, who suffers from Hydrocephalus, a medical condition that causes abnormal accumulation of fluid in cavities of the brain.Reuters

Roona Begum, the little Indian girl whose struggle with an over-sized head drew international sympathy last year, is slowly returning to normalcy following a series of skull-reduction surgeries that shrunk her head from 37 to 23 inches.

Interestingly, the girl is now able to smile, laugh, talk, crawl, eat and sleep, the Daily Mail reported. "I see a lot of improvement, which I didn't expect. She has started laughing, she makes a lot of sounds and she occasionally speaks a few words," Neurosurgeon Dr Sandeep Vaishya, told DM. "She has gained a lot of weight and her activities have improved a lot."

The three-year-old girl from Tripura was diagnosed with a rare medical condition known as Hydrocephalus, shortly after her birth in 2011. Hydrocephalus, commonly referred to as "water on the brain," is the abnormal accumulation of cerebral fluid in the brain that causes a baby's head to swell up and grow bigger than an average size.

Roona's condition received medical attention only last April when the media carried heart-breaking images of the little girl. By that time, the then 18-month-old baby had a head circumference of 94 centimetres (37 inches). Due to the heaviness and abnormal size of the head, she was not able to move or see.

Through five surgeries conducted in August, doctors at the Fortis Memorial Research Institute (FMRI) in Gurgaon, near New Delhi drained out nearly ten litres of excess fluid from the girl's cerebral shunt, and shrunk the brain size to 58 centimetres.

Though these surgeries have helped to improve the girl's condition, doctors said they were not sure whether the girl can be completely normal. "But most likely I don't think she will be absolutely normal because with such a severe case of hydrocephalus there has to be some damage to the brain. But with the improvement she has shown we are hopeful she will be able to do some things." Dr Vaishya, said to DM.

However, Roona's mother Fatima Khatun (23), is happy with her improvements. "The doctors said she would not live - but she has survived. She is much better now. She can hold her head straight and can move her head from side to side on her own. She responds to other kids and she will smile if other kids call out her name," she told the tabloid.

Though Fatima wanted to see her child going to school, the girl's father, Abdul Rehman, who works in a brick factory, revealed his plans to go for more surgeries only if the doctors assure that she will become a normal kid. "But if they cannot give us that assurance, then we don't need it. We would much rather let her be as she is," he told the tabloid.