Conn. woman mauled by chimp praised for new face

November 21, 2011 - 12:00 PM

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut woman who was mauled by an out-of-control chimpanzee says she's venturing out more after a face transplant and that her new face is getting compliments.

Charla Nash told NBC's "Today" show that she's returning to more of her normal life and her donor face has begun molding to her underlying bone structure.

"I've had people tell me I'm beautiful," Nash said in the interview that aired Monday. "And they were not telling me I was beautiful before."

Nash said she was cheered by a simple "hello" from a child while she was shopping recently.

"That didn't happen before," she said. "It was nice. The little girl was saying 'hi' to me. ... I'm not scaring anybody."

Nash was attacked in February 2009 by a neighbor's 200-pound pet chimpanzee, which went berserk after its owner asked Nash to help lure it 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 blinded in the attack.

She underwent a face and double hand transplant in May, but the hands failed to thrive because of complications and were removed. Doctors have told her she might be able to have a transplant in a year.

She said it didn't bother her when she found out her hands were removed "because I was too sick to worry about that."

"And then later on, I was disappointed that, you know, I had them and they're gone again. But I'm hoping, you know, for in the future, that it can be done again," she said.

Nash is again able to chew food and smell aromas and fragrances. She said she can smell the perfumes of nurses she works with.

"They all smell pretty," she said.

Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, director of plastic surgery transplantation at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, says Nash's face will continue to heal over the coming year.

"What we have seen is that the face almost blends in and becomes the patient's own, to the point that I think that a regular person passing by will not be even able to tell," he told the "Today" show.

Nash's daughter, Briana, believes her mother is back.

"She looks similar," she said. "I'm still waiting for the underlying bone structure to take some shape on her cheeks. But it's my mom."