Charla Nash awaits face transplant

2011-04-01 11:47
New Haven - A Connecticut woman mauled and heavily disfigured by a chimpanzee two years ago can't see, touch or smell and struggles to eat through a straw. She's eagerly awaiting a donor who would enable her to undergo face and hand transplant surgery.

Charla Nash, who's at a rehabilitation centre near Boston, was deemed eligible for the surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston after passing numerous pre-operative tests and evaluations.

The hospital, which performed the nation's first full face transplant earlier this month on a Texas construction worker injured in a power line accident, is working with the New England Organ Bank to find donors who match Nash's tissue requirements.

"She keeps her spirits up," one of her attorneys, Charles Willinger, said Wednesday. "She's just remarkable. Every day is a challenge for her."

The 90kg pet chimpanzee named Travis went berserk in February 2009 after its owner asked Nash to help lure it back into her house in Stamford, one of the state's biggest cities. It ripped off Nash's hands, nose, lips and eyelids.

Hand and face transplant

The Department of Defence would pay for the surgery through a contract it gave the hospital in 2009 to cover the cost of face transplants for veterans and some civilians, hospital officials said. Depending on donors, the hospital could wind up performing the first simultaneous hand and face transplant in the country.

The simultaneous surgery has been done only once before, in France in 2009, and that patient later died. Plastic surgeon Dr Bohdan Pomahac, who will lead the team and performed the earlier face transplant, said he has a larger team and designed the operation differently.

"We feel that it's a perfectly feasible operation," Pomahac said on Thursday. "I feel comfortable and confident that we can certainly perform it."

The donor can be as much as 20 years younger or up to 10 years older than the recipient and must have the same blood type and similar skin colour and texture. Time is of the essence when recovering facial tissue from a donor, so the donor must be located within a four-hour travel radius of Brigham and Women's Hospital, hospital officials said.

The surgery will "profoundly" change Nash's life, restoring her sense of smell and touch, making it easier for her to eat and allowing her more independence, Pomahac said, adding that Nash is excited about it.

"She's doing very well, psychologically amazingly well considering the gravity of her injuries," Pomahac said.

Nash, whose face was damaged beyond recognition, wears a straw hat with a veil that hangs over the front and covers some of her injuries.


She spends her time talking on the phone with her daughter, who is in college, and taking walks with her brother, family spokesperson John Orr said. She gets excited when occasionally she can taste food, such as a recent soda, he said.

The chimp's owner, Sandra Herold, who had a tow truck business, died last year of an aneurysm. Nash's family is suing her estate for $50m and wants to sue the state for $150m, saying state officials failed to prevent the attack.

The chimp was shot and killed by police, and tests showed it had the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in its system. The chimp also had escaped from its owner's car in 2003 and led police on a chase for hours in downtown Stamford, but no one was injured.

YouTube video of Nash when she appeared on Oprah. WARNING: Graphic Content:

- AP
Read more on:    animals  |  health

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


3 sports games you have to watch this weekend

Whether it’s date night or a braai with buddies, plan around these three exciting sporting games!

How to maintain your mo, bro
Hottie of the day: Colette
Pro-skater Tony Hawk rides a hoverboard!
10 ways to drive her wild!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

20% off ALL TV Series

Choose from 1000’s of the hottest TV Series . While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


There is a strong desire to be unique, self sufficient, right and in control today. Your mind is fast today and you may have more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.