Charla Nash: Chimp Attack Victim in Hospital After Body Starts Rejecting Face Transplant

By Andrew Simontacchi
Andrew Simontacchi
Andrew Simontacchi
May 5, 2016 Updated: May 5, 2016

In 2009, Charla Nash, a 62-year-old from Connecticut, was mauled by Travis, a chimpanzee she had known for years; resulting in the loss of her nose, lips, eyelids, and hands. 

Travis, a 200-pound pet chimp, also transmitted a disease to Nash, prompting doctors to remove her eyes.

In 2011, she was given a new face from a dead woman, and two new hands—but her body immediately rejected the tissue of the hands.

Now, her body is beginning to reject her face.

Nash is currently experiencing a “moderate rejection episode,” according to Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, director of plastic surgery transplantation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital—making it clear that the transplant is not in jeopardy.

Pomahac said she will most likely leave the hospital in the next one or two days.

Nash was part of an experimental process, in which doctors would ween her off the anti-rejection drugs she had been taking since the operation. The drugs can have serious side effects, and the military had funded her participation in the experiment, hoping the findings could help soldiers who require transplants after serving.

Nash said in a statement: “I gave it my all and know my participation in the study will still be beneficial. I’d do it all over again, if I could. The men and women serving our country are the true heroes.”

According to her publicist, she discovered multiple unusual patches on her face, prompting doctors to perform a biopsy on May 2, which determined her body was rejecting the transplant.

When beginning the experiment, which primarily focuses on the suspension of anti-rejection drugs, back in March of 2015 doctors said the trial would eventually include other patients, and their findings could potentially affect hundreds of thousands of people, military and civilian alike.

“I’m just happy I had the chance to help,” said Nash, who claims she feels fine. “I wish I could have done more. I believe in the power of prayer and appreciate everyone who is praying for me.”

On the day of the attack, it’s believed Travis mistook Nash for an intruder because her hairstyle was different from the last time he saw her. 

After viciously mauling Nash, and being stabbed by its owner, police arrived and the primate charged toward them. It entered the police vehicle and attacked the policeman in the driver’s seat.

While trapped in the car with the officer, the chimp was shot and died next to its cage shortly afterwards.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Andrew Simontacchi
Andrew Simontacchi