The woman who nearly died two years ago after being mauled by her boss' chimpanzee revealed her new face Tuesday on NBC's Today show.
Charla Nash, 56, underwent a 20-hour double face and hand transplant six months ago after the chimp left her horribly disfigured back in 2009, tearing off her hands, eyes, nose and lips in the attack. Nash is the first person in the U.S. to undergo a double face and hand transplant, though her new hands had to be removed just days after the surgery due to an infection.
However, Nash said her new face has been life-changing, as she can now go out in public without frightening people. She has regained her sense of smell and taste, though she was permanently blinded in the attack.
"I've had people tell me I was beautiful, and no one ever told me I was beautiful before," she told news anchor Meredith Vieira.
She also expressed gratitude for the donation.
“Words can’t even say enough, but that donation, you know, as hard as it was for them, was a wonderful gift for us, me and my family," she said. “Because it really gave me a life back. It’s such a wonderful thing. I could not thank them enough.“
Nash's face is still healing, and doctors say it will eventually mold to her own facial structure enough so that people will not be able to tell she underwent a transplant. Though she will not look exactly as she did before, she will not look like the donor, either.
Nash's ordeal began back in 2010 after receiving a call from her friend, Sandra Herold, asking if she could help her with her pet chimp named Travis. Though well-known in the area for appearing in various commercials and television appearances, Travis was also known to be aggressive at times and Nash has said in interviews that she was afraid of him.
Travis immediately attacked her when she arrived at Herold's residence, leaving her so badly disfigured police could barely tell she was human.
Nash said she wants to ensure that this does not happen to anyone else by pushing for stricter legislation prohibiting wild animals from being kept as pets.
"I lived in Connecticut and there were restrictions against this animals, but they didn't enforce them," she said. "I know that I can't go back and change what happened, but I can go forward and think about helping with the future of these animals and people's safety."