Charla Nash – the Connecticut woman who was viciously mauled by her friend’s chimpanzee more than two years ago – said she is tremendously grateful for her new face, which will allow her to once again be a part of society.
The world got the first glimpse of her face Thursday morning after pictures were revealed on NBC’s “Today” show. Nash did not appear on the program because family members said she was too weak to do an interview, but she did release a statement thanking everyone involved in her recovery.
“These transplants could not have been possible without the generosity of a family unknown to me. They gave me a face and hands,” Nash said in the statement. “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.”
The 20-hour surgery took place at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital in May, and involved a surgical team that consisted of more than 30 physicians, nurses and anesthesiologists.
During the surgery, Nash received skin, underlying muscles, blood vessels, nerves, a hard palate and teeth from a donor who hasn't been named. It was the third full face transplant in the U.S.
Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, who led the team, attempted a hand transplant on Nash as well, but they failed to thrive and were later removed. Despite the setback, Nash said she's hoping to attempt another double hand transplant one day.
“It’s wonderful to see how Charla’s recovery has progressed as she continues taking steps toward her new life,” Pomahac said in a press release.
Nash was attacked in February 2009 by a her friend’s 200-pound pet chimpanzee, who went berserk after the owner asked Nash to help lure him back into her house in Stamford, Conn. The animal, named Travis, ripped off Nash's nose, lips, eyelids and hands before being shot to death by police.
Nash was left with no eyes and only a small opening where her mouth once was. She could only eat pureed food, and she was barely understandable when she spoke.
"What they've done for us is just so amazing," Nash's daughter, Brianna, told the “Today” show. "This has really given my mom the hope to move forward, a chance at a life again."
Nash's family is suing the estate of the chimpanzee's owner, Sandra Herold, for $50 million and wants to sue the state for $150 million, claiming officials failed to prevent the attack. Herold died last year of an aneurysm.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.