Charla Nash Gets Face Transplant After Chimp Attack

An attempt to give Nash a new pair of hands failed and they were taken off.

ByABC News
June 10, 2011, 9:56 AM

June 10, 2011— -- Charla Nash, the Connecticut woman whose face was horribly mauled by her friend's pet chimpanzee, has undergone grueling surgery to give her a new face.

After the 20-hour surgical marathon by a team of more than 30 doctors and nurses, Nash's new face looks "perfect," her brother Steve said.

An attempt to give her a pair of new hands failed, and the transplanted hands were removed.

Steve Nash choked up during a press conference today while thanking the donor's family.

"Your incredible gift to Charla is generous and kind beyond words," he said. "Thank you for your precious gift and God bless you."

Nash, 57, was helping her friendSandra Herold lure her pet chimp Travis inside when the 200 pound animal ripped off her nose, lips, eyelids and hands before being shot and killed by police.

Since the 2009 attack, Nash wore a straw hat with a veil to cover her injuries, but revealed her mangled face on a November 2009 episode of "Oprah."

"Charla didn't attend her daughter Brianna's high school graduation because she thought her presence would take away from the day," said Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, director of plastic surgery transplantation at Brigham and Woman's Hospital in Boston. "I think her new face will allow Charla to be present when Brianna graduates from college in a few years."

Steve Nash said the results of the transplant are "amazing to see."

He also said that before the transplant, Nash had to eat pureed food through a straw. Now, she will be able to eat and is looking forward to a trip to the family's hot dog stand in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Nash desperately wanted a simultaneous face and hand transplant -- a procedure that has been done only once before in France, and that patient later died. The procedure is complicated because of the precision and coordination necessary, and the increased risk of complications. Nash developed pneumonia and kidney failure after the transplant, which hampered circulation to the hands.

The hands and face both came from the same donor, but the hand transplant failed and they had to be removed, the doctors said.

"She's not aware of the hands, that she lost them," John Orr, a spokesman for the Nash family told the Associated Press. "She's still groggy. She's acknowledging with a nod that someone is there, but she still has pneumonia issues. The kidneys are back working, but she isn't aware of too much yet."

Pomahac said the team "could transplant the hands again should a suitable donor be identified."

Officials at Brigham and Women's Hospital said the operation occurred in late May.

Face Transplant for Chimp Attack Victim Charla Nash

Nash is the third person to undergo a face transplant at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dallas Wiens received the nation's first face transplant patient there in March.

Nash has no memory of the morning Herold called her to help get Travis back in his cage, she told Winfrey.

"I don't remember anything and they told the doctor that I don't want to remember," she said.

Herold's 911 call offered a haunting description of the violent attack. Herold can be heard screaming that Travis had killed her friend and was "eating her."

"The chimp killed my friend," Herold screamed. "Send the police with a gun. With a gun!"

The dispatcher later asks, "Who's killing your friend?"

"My chimpanzee," she cries. "He ripped her apart! Shoot him, shoot him!"