By BETH STEBNER
Brave face: After a full face transplant, chimpanzee maul victim Charla Nash is making a remarkable recovery and is gaining feeling in her new face
Despite losing her eyesight, lips, nose, and hands in a vicious attack by a rampaging chimpanzee in 2009, face transplant recipient Charla Nash says she feels at home in her new skin.
The brave 58-year-old woman, who nearly died in the horrific mauling, told the Hartford Courant exclusively that she feels no different than she did before the attack. ‘I just feel like it’s my face,’ she said. ‘It’s just not working real good.’
Ms Nash, a single mother from Stamford, Connecticut, told the Courant that she’s regaining movements in her face and can express herself with various motions.
‘Every day, my muscles get better,’ she said.
Before and after: Pictured before the attack, left, and after she received a full-face transplant, right
Sandra Herold, who owned the 200-lb chimp Travis, died of an aneurism in 2010. Ms Nash said that if she could say anything to her former boss and friend, she would say she is ‘sorry that all this happened. And, nothing we can change now.’
However, she added that Herold was ‘a trouble person’ that was more worried about her pet – who was shot and killed after the attack – than she was of her.
In past interviews, Ms Nash revealed that having a new face allowed her simple human pleasures – she has regained her sense of smell and can eat again.
Recovery: Six months in, Ms Nash showed off her face transplant surgery. Surgeons spent 20 hours re-building her features
She is even regaining sensation in her forehead, cheeks, eyebrow, and nose.
But most of all, she’s learning how to smile. ‘It creases up here,’ Ms Nash told the Courant as she pointed at her mouth.
In the interview, Ms Nash also spoke of long years of rehabilitation, and the hope of regaining some semblance of independence.
‘I don’t know what the future’s doing (sic) to bring… so I don’t get my hopes up,’ Ms Nash said,
though she added that she wants to progress far enough that she can again ride horses and live in her own house.
Reconstruction: In the attack, her eyes, nose, and lips were mauled off
She said she misses simple things – like being able to bargain hunt, bask in the sunshine, or even look at her 20-year-old daughter, Brianna.
‘I have to depend on a lot of help,’ she said. ‘My life depends on really not being alone. I used to be very independent.’
She also gets phantom pains in her hands, despite the fact that they were removed after the 2009 attack.
Haunting image: Ms Nash is seen posing with the chimp a year before the attack
Transplants added in surgery later had to be removed because of dangerous complications.
In an interview with ABC 7 last month, Ms Nash – who likes being called Charlie – said she doesn’t want anybody’s pity.
‘I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me,’ she said. ‘I want to be like everyone else.’
There are very real financial concerns as well. Her surgery, care, and rehabilitation have cost millions.
According to the Courant, there is a $150million case pending against the state of Connecticut for allegedly not protecting its citizens from an unsafe creature.
One state employee reportedly wrote in a memo that Travis’ attack was ‘an accident waiting to happen.’
‘I hope that I do get my day in court,’ she said.
She has been told by doctors that she needs to work on bulking up, as she is still quite thin for her 5ft 10in frame.
Courageous: The survivor first revealed her mauled face on the Oprah Winfrey show; before the surgery, she kept a veil over her face
Ms Nash, who was blinded in the 2009 attack, was fitted with brown glass eyes and hopes to get a double hand transplant after the first one failed.
She received a revolutionary full-face transplant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston nearly two years after the attack.
The operation – performed by a team of more than 30 surgeons and nurses – and subsequent recovery were widely covered.
Prior to the surgery, she hid her face under a veil, saying that she chose to wear it ‘so I don’t scare people.’
Furious George: She was attacked by 200-lb chimpanzee Travis in 2009