Charla Nash, the 57-year-old woman who was attacked by a friends 200 pound chimp, is recovering well from surgery undertaken last May and unveiled her new face to the world today. She had a face transplant after the chimp mauled her face so badly that she was left with no eyelids, lips or nose and the chimp also ripped off her hands in the attack.
The 20 hour operation to restore her facial features took place at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston with a team of 30 specialists. She also undertook bilateral hand transplant surgery but the hand grafts did not survive and had to be removed.
The tissue came from the same donor and Nash’s surgeons say that for a hand transplant to be successful it is important to get the right blood type, along with skin tone, gender and genetic markers should be compatible too.
The operation to restore her facial features was only the third of its kind performed in the United States, all at the same hospital. Nash commented, “I will now be able to do things I once took for granted. I will be able to smell. I will be able to eat normally. I will no longer be disfigured.
I will have lips and will speak clearly once again. I will be able to kiss and hug loved ones. I am tremendously grateful to the donor and her family.” And her family are encouraged by her progress as well saying that she can now make expressions and they can see emotions registering on her face, her speech has much improved and she is slowly regaining the ability to eat and smell.
The attack, which occurred in February of 2009 had forced Nash to wear a veil whilst out in public and although her new face does not look exactly like her old features, it is gradually growing more reminiscent of how she used to look.
The transplant appears to be moulding itself to her underlying bones and muscle structure. Nash appears pragmatic about the loss of her hands saying “Losing the new hands is just a bump in the road of my recovery. I believe that one day I’ll have two hands to help me live as a blind person with confidence,” What a truly brave woman.
Update: There will be a television programme on Channel Five on Thursday 27th October 2011 about Charla Nash and her recovery from the attack.