Disfigured face on Oprah

2009-11-12 16:02

Chicago - A woman who was attacked by a 90kg chimpanzee revealed her heavily disfigured face on television on Wednesday, saying she is blind and has to eat through a straw, but isn't angry.

"I don't even think about it," Charla Nash said on Wednesday's episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. "And there's no time for that anyways because I need to heal, you know, not look backward."

Winfrey removed Nash's hat and veil to reveal her face, which was swollen and damaged beyond recognition. She had a large scar near the bottom of her face and a large piece of skin where her nose had been.

The attack on February 16 occurred when the animal's owner, Sandra Herold, asked Nash, her friend and employee, to help lure the animal back into her house in Stamford, Connecticut. The chimpanzee ripped off Nash's hands, nose, lips and eyelids.

Police shot and killed the animal. Nash has been hospitalised since. She remains in stable condition at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Nash said she didn't remember anything from the attack and doesn't want to.


"I want to get healthy," she said. "I don't want to wake up with nightmares."

In a telephone interview on Wednesday night, Nash said she repeatedly warned Herold that the primate was dangerous and could hurt someone. Nash said she saw the chimpanzee throw large objects around his cage, including a desk and 208-litre plastic drum.

She said she saw him flash his teeth and pound the bars of the cage so violently his hands would bleed.

"They had to weld the cage because he was starting to break out from hitting it so much," Nash said.

Another time Herold told workers at her house they had to leave because Travis was misbehaving, Nash said.

Nash said she was afraid of Travis, who was typically locked in his cage when she saw him. Nash said she told Herold eight or 10 times he was dangerous.

"I always told her you have to get rid of him, he's going to hurt somebody someday. He's too dangerous," Nash said. "You can't control him, and he's going to hurt somebody."

Legal proceedings

Nash, who occasionally fed Travis oatmeal in his cage, said she told Herold that Travis did not have enough room to run around and she should give him up.

"Sandy would say, 'I know, but it's hard,"' explaining that she believed if she gave him up, he would not get the same level of care she provided.

Herold had black and blue marks from Travis, but she would say they were from playing around with him, Nash said.

Asked about Herold, Nash said, "I feel like I've been thrown under a bus" since the attack happened and legal proceedings began.

Herold's attorney, Robert Golger, provided AP with a statement, saying Herold wishes Nash the best.

"All of Sandy's hopes and prayers are with Charla and her daughter in this challenging time," the statement read. "Sandy hopes and prays for a full and speedy recovery."

Nash's family has filed a $50m lawsuit against Herold, saying she was negligent and reckless for lacking the ability to control "a wild animal with violent propensities".


Herold's attorney has argued the attack was work-related and the case should be treated as a workers' compensation claim. Nash denied she was Herold's employee.

Nash's family filed notice with Connecticut's Office of Claims Commissioner this month, asking for permission to sue the state for $150m, saying officials failed to prevent the attack. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has said his office is reviewing the claim.

Herold owned the 14-year-old chimp nearly all its life. When he was younger, Travis starred in TV commercials and took part in a television pilot.

A state biologist had warned Connecticut officials that the chimp could hurt someone. The animal had the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in its system, according to toxicology tests, but investigators don't know whether the drug played a role in the attack.

Nash told Winfrey she is not in pain but can't breathe through her nose and has to eat through a straw. She said she doesn't touch her face often.

"I know that I have my forehead," Nash said. "It feels like just patches of tape or gauze or covering, covering my face."

It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago, when an eye doctor told Nash she no longer had eyes, that she realised she would never see again, she said. Nash said she doesn't ask many questions about her injuries.


"It's like less for me to worry about if I don't know," she said.

Nash said the animal had once ripped out a hunk of her hair and grabbed her arm a few times.

"You could feel the strength he had," she said.

Nash said she wants to warn people about potential dangers posed by exotic animals.

"I'd like to put across to people's minds that these exotic animals are very dangerous and they shouldn't be around," Nash said on Winfrey's show. "There's a place for them that is not in residential areas."

Even if she isn't feeling well, Nash said she pushes herself to go for a walk during the day. She wears a veil so she doesn't scare people and to avoid insults.

"I'm the same person I've always been," she said. "I just look different."

Here's a clip from YouTube. WARNING: Graphic Content:

  • Animals - 2009-11-12 16:21

    People should not keep wild animals as pets. I feel sorry for this woman.

  • Shania - 2009-11-12 16:28

    The poor chimpanzee, it sounds like it had a traumatic life, I feel sorry for this poor woman and wish it was the owner who was attacked, I truly believe she would have deserved for it to happen to her, to keep that poor animal in a cage, leading a lonely cooped-up life, and then to give it Xanax, what a fricken horrible idiot. It's just so sad that so many animals are tortured this way. Why are people so stupid and selfish. :(

  • sol - 2009-11-12 16:33

    sad story!

  • Dalene - 2009-11-12 16:50

    The owner should be sued for MILLIONS!! An apology alone is not enough. Imagine being scarred for LIFE! How extremely sad!

  • Andy - 2009-11-12 16:52

    Here's a classic case of the animal's owner putting her feelings before the welbeing of the animal. The chimp should have been in a proper zoo, with other chimps. He was probably frustrated at being kept in a small cage. I feel sorry for the victim of the attack but not for the owner, she should have allowed the chimp to be rehomed in proper facilities a long time ago.

  • Anne - 2009-11-12 18:08

    I feel sorry for both the woman and the chimpanzee. Agree - wild animals should definitely not be kept as pets. Same reason why so many cats and dogs are abandoned or neglected - they're very cute when young. People just don't use their common sense.

  • SillyGirl - 2009-11-12 19:13

    Freedom is worth fighting for...
    The ape was in captivity, alone and depressed. Imagine you were caged and had no one of your kind around.
    Sad and most unfortunate what has happened to Nash but no sympathy for Herold, you chose the action you choose the consequences.

  • Sian - 2009-11-13 03:41

    this poor woman. but you should not keep wild animals as pets. and the poor chimpanzee getting killed because of as usual human stupidity. it was locked up most of the time what did the owner think it would eventually do.

  • Karin - 2009-11-13 10:17

    I really cannot understand how it is allowed for Americans to keep wild animals as pets. They keep lions, tigers, chimps etc. Our country has much better laws about wild animals than they do.

  • Dave - 2009-11-13 15:32

    There are no words to express how sad this event is for Ms Nash. I wish her a miracle, and soon.

  • Sydney - 2009-11-14 18:57

    God bless Charla for her courage and strength through all of this, she is an amazing and loving person...

  • stephanie - 2009-11-15 05:51

    I hate all of the people out there that feel bad for that animal. That animal destroyed a womans face and you feel sorry for it. Yeah i dont think so.

  • loretta - 2009-11-16 16:02

    I don't know if I feel sorry for the animal, it should have delt wit its owner and not this poor woman. Animals like these especially if u know it's got a problem should not be kept as pets what if it had attacked a kid. We should really look at the kind of animals we making pets. I feel sorry for this poor woman.

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