Nov. 11, 2009— -- The Connecticut woman who was attacked by her friend's chimpanzee in February, revealed the mangled remains of her face on the Oprah Winfrey show today for the first time, publicly showing the remnants of her missing eyes, nose and lips.
Charla Nash, who wakes up every day in a hospital room at the Cleveland clinic where doctors change her bandages daily, told Winfrey she rarely touches her face so as not to learn the full extent of her injuries.
"I don't ask a whole lot about my injuries. I know that I have my forehead," she told Winfrey.
Nash, 56, must drink all of her meals with a straw though a small hole where her mouth used to be, She said she longs for the day when she might be able to eat "a hot dog or piece of pizza."
Despite her injuries, Nash seemed remarkably upbeat. She said she felt no pain, was not angry and was ready to move on with her life rather than dwell on that horrific day.
"I'm the same person I've always been. I just look different. There are things that happen in life you can't change," she said.
"I don't think about it [the attack.] Theres no time for that because I need to heal, you know, not look backwards."
Nash was mauled by a 200-pound adult chimpanzee named Travis, owned by her friend and employer Sandra Herold. Paramedics responding to a 911 call said they found pieces of Nash's fingers strewn on the floor and her hands looked as though they had been through a meat grinder.
"The monkey had ripped off her entire upper jaw, had ripped off her nose, which as hanging by a thread," said Dr.Kevin Miller, who treated Nash when she taken to the emergency room. "We found extensive dirt, chimp fur, and chimp teeth implanted in her bone."
Harrowing 911 Call of Chimp Attack
Nash is missing both hands, but had a thumb surgically replaced on her left hand. Doctors removed her eyes and grafted a piece of her leg to where her nose used to be.
"I'm not a candidate for a hands transplant because I have no eyesight. I hope somewhere along the way to get a face transplant and get a hand transplant at the same time," she said.
Nash said she does not remember anything about the morning when Herold called her to help get Travis back in his cage.
"I don't remember anything and they told the doctor that I don't want to remember," she told Winfrey.
But the 911 calls Herold made describe a chilling scene. On the recordings, Herold can be heard screaming that the ape had killed her friend and was "eating her!"
"The chimp killed my friend!" says a sobbing Herold on the tapes. "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!"
Nash goes for daily walks around the hospital and relishes the occasional visits she shares with her 17-year-old daughter Brianna.
"I'm sorry I can't spend more time with my daughter. I know she misses me. I miss her too," Nash said.
Among the moments that she relishes is when her daughter crawls in bed with her and they hold each other. Among the few regrets she expressed was her inability to help her daughter pick out a prom dress.
"Her prom is coming up and I can't pick out a gown, so I really hope she picks out something appropriate to wear. I hope she has a good time there," Nash said.
When outside her hospital room she wears a hat and veil, usually made from a handkerchief attached the brim of a straw hat.
Nash said she wears the veil "so I don't scare people. And sometimes other people might insult you."
Hopes to Be Independent
She said she hopes to one day be out of the hospital and more independent.
"Before I was always really independent. I wanted to be alone. I want to be independent but I don't want to be alone anymore," she said.
Nash has filed a civil suit against Herold seeking $50 million in damages for pain and suffering. The chimp's owner claims that Nash was her employee at the time of the attack and is entitled only to file a workman's compensation claim, which would greatly limit the amount of money she could receive.
Nash told Oprah that taking care of the ape was not part of her job and she was scared of even being around the animal.
"I do remember going to feed him a couple of times," she said. "He was big and scary. He was huge."
Travis, she said, was Herold's pet and not part of Desire Me Motors, the towing company Herold ran out of her home.
"It was her pet that she wanted for a companion... If she had to rush out or couldn't come home, I fed him," Nash said.
Nash said the chimp was usually kept in a cage, but when it had been allowed outside as a baby, years earlier, had ripped the hair from her scalp, causing her to tear up and Herold to laugh at the incident.
The 15-year-old ape, killed by cops, had starred in an Old Navy television commercial advertising cargo shorts. He reportedly enjoyed surfing the Internet and could change the channels on the television using a remote control. The chimpanzee was sometimes taken out of his room-sized cage to eat meals sitting at the dinner table with Herold, and occasionally drank wine from a wineglass.
Herold said Travis was acting strangely earlier in the day of the attack so she gave him the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, but later retracted that statement.
Police at the time of the attack speculated that a previous bout with Lyme disease may have accounted for the animal?s reported mood swings.