Charla Nash, the Connecticut woman who suffered traumatic facial injuries in a 2009 attack by a 200-pound chimpanzee, sat down with Meredith Vieira on Today Wednesday morning to talk about recent reports that her body is rejecting her ground-breaking 2011 facial transplant.
“I never thought I’d be like this,” Nash told Vieira, reflecting on her journey. “I’ve come a long way”
Nash’s body recently began to reject the facial transplant after Nash’s participation in a study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, to learn whether the results of scaled-back anti-rejection medications might reduce side effects and benefit soldiers whose war injuries also require transplants.
“It would help all the service men and women,” Nash said, explaining why she did the study in the first place. “The one biopsy said a slight rejection. But the study is not a failure. It’s a success. They’ve learned so much from all my testing.”
Nash’s face will be fine, as she’s gone back on the medication she was on prior to the study. Transplant patients of all kinds are often placed on regimens of immunosuppression drugs for life, to as foreign tissue is being introduced to their bodies. Those drugs have been known to carry risks for kidney damage and other side effects.
Potential side effects aside, Nash remains fiercely independent. While an at-home aid helps Nash during the week, she’s all alone on weekends, often using a transportation service for the disabled to visit her favorite discount store, Savers.
“You feel like you’re almost normal,” Nash told Vieira, of her decision to travel alone. “You feel like you’re a person again.”
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For further help, she’s considering moving closer to her daughter, Brianna, who just completed her Masters. Nash is also learning to use a new robotic arm which will help her do everyday tasks.
The survivor looks forward to getting back to her passion one day: horseback riding.
“I’m ready,” she said, hopefully. “I want to ride horses again. I will.”
Throughout it all, Nash has retained a sense of humor. When people tell her she looks great, she says “Oh I’ve had a little work done,” Vieira recounted.