Chimp Attack Victim Could be Candidate For Face Transplant

Doctors Say Recovery is uncertain for chimp attack victim Charla Nash.

March 5, 2009— -- Nearly a month after her face was torn apart by her friend's 200-pound pet chimpanzee, Charla Nash continues to lay sedated in a hospital room with severe cosmetic and neurological issues.

Doctors say it's too early to determine if the 55-year-old Connecticut woman would be a candidate for a face transplant surgery, a procedure recently performed for the first time in the U.S. at the Cleveland Clinic where Nash was transferred after the attack.

Dr. Kevin Miller, a trauma surgeon at Stamford Hospital, where Nash was initially treated, told "Good Morning America" today that Nash is responding to some commands, but "this could be a weeks-to-months type process." Doctors' main concerns now, he said, are infection and neurological complications.

Her other doctors elaborated in a statement, saying there were several "critical issues" relating to "a significant brain injury and injuries to her eyes."

"The full extent of these injuries and her potential for recovery, if any, remain unclear," the statement said.

Nash's injuries and the blood loss at the scene and at the hospital, he said, were so severe that many people wouldn't have survived it.

"You could tell this woman, when she came in … she needed to live, she had a reason to live," Miller said.

Nash's twin brother, Michael Nash, told "Good Morning America" that his sister's teenage daughter has been to visit her at the hospital.

"She's a fighter," he said of his twin. "Just hoping she comes out of this as well as possible."

'It's Just Been Hell'

Nash was attacked at her friend's Stamford home last month after Travis, the chimp Sandra Herold had kept as a pet for years, turned on her.

Herold could be heard on the 911 tape saying that she had tried stabbing her beloved pet, but he wouldn't stop. She begged officers to shoot the animal she had raised like a son.

"It's just been hell," Herold has said, "There's no way to explain it any different."

Herold and Nash had been friends for more than 30 years after riding horses in Loretta Lynn's traveling rodeo in the 70s.

They had plans to open a business together in April.

"Our heart goes out to Charlie and her family, hoping she's going to recover," Herold's nephew Louis Tassiello said.

Herold initially told police she had given Travis Xanax earlier in some tea that day, but later backed away from that statement, saying the tablets never dissolved. Police believe the drug may have contributed to the chimp's rampage.