Chimp attack victim with new face is now called ‘beautiful’


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Charla Nash once feared going outside, even after she underwent a face transplant after a vicious attack by a friend’s pet chimpanzee. She skipped her daughter’s high school graduation because she feared that the stares of other adults, or frightened children, would overshadow the ceremony.

But now, with her transplanted face healing little by little each day, Nash told “Today” show host Meredith Viera that she’s venturing out more often -- and even collecting compliments.


“I’ve had people tell me I’m beautiful,” Nash said during an interview that aired Monday. “And they were not telling me I was beautiful before.”

(Warning: The above video should probably come with a Kleenex requirement. It’s a must-watch for anyone who needs something to be grateful for at the Thanksgiving table later this week.)

Nash made particular mention of a sweet “hello” she recently exchanged with a child while shopping. “That didn’t happen before,” she said. “It was nice. The little girl was saying ‘hi’ to me.... I’m not scaring anybody.”

Nash has been dubbed the “chimp attack victim” by the media, but her journey back to health continues to show the world that she’s much more.

Nash was attacked in 2009 by her friend’s pet chimp. The animal ripped off Nash’s face and hands and blinded her. She made medical history last May with the first combined face and hands transplant surgeries.

Unfortunately, Nash became ill after the surgery and suffered a lack of circulation to her extremities. The hands had to be removed, but doctors hope they can try again.


In the meantime, Nash has been fitted with prosthetic eyes, which have added to her ability to go for a walk without attracting much attention.

Although she still has some difficulty speaking, Nash was animated as she spoke to Viera about being able to eat solids again after surviving for so long on a liquid diet.

Among the foods she has enjoyed: breakfast at IHop, French fries with Parmesan cheese, and potato skins.

To this day, no one knows why the chimp attacked. Nash was helping her friend and the chimp’s owner, Sandra Herold, round it up after it escaped from its cage. Instead, it turned on Nash.

Herold has since died, and Nash’s family has filed a $50-million lawsuit against her estate.

Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, director of plastic surgery transplantation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where Nash has been treated, says her face will continue to heal and mold to her underlying bone structure.

“What we have seen is that the face almost blends in and becomes the patient’s own, to the point that I think that a regular person passing by will not be even able to tell,” he told the “Today” show.


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--Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch