When a chimpanzee mauled this woman, it was clear that her life would never be the same again. However, she was determined to put the ordeal behind her. Seven years later, though, she opened up about the awful attack.
Charla Nash was a big animal lover. In fact, one of her passions in life was horses. Indeed, she was a major part of Loretta Lynn’s famous traveling rodeo. And that’s how she first came to meet her good friend Sandra Herold.
They first met in the 1970s and their friendship was still going strong in 2009. They both lived in Connecticut so saw each other on a regular basis. Furthermore, Nash worked at the towing company run by Herold and her husband.
Due to their close relationship, Nash was familiar with Herold’s chimpanzee, Travis. The animal was born in 1995 and the Herold family adopted him just three days later. As a result, he was well socialized with humans and would even accompany them to work.
Consequently, many people saw Travis as something of a local celebrity. Fans would stop by the towing company just to get a picture with him. In the snaps, the chimp would often sit in a truck wearing a baseball shirt.
So to most people, Travis was simply the friendly mascot of the Herolds’ business. However, an incident in 2009 would change everything.
In November of that year, Travis somehow escaped Herold’s home with her car keys. Frantic to find her beloved chimp, the owner enlisted Nash to help. So Nash set out looking for the animal. She was carrying a favorite toy of his in the hope of enticing him.
Eventually, the two friends did encounter Travis. But upon seeing Nash with his prized possession, the chimpanzee launched a vicious and frenzied attack on her. And there was nothing his owners could do to stop him.
Herold used a knife and a shovel in a bid to stop Travis’ attack. But it didn’t work. She called the police and made a desperate plea for help. When the cops arrived on the scene, the chimp tried to get into their car, so an officer shot and fatally wounded the animal.
However, the shots came too late to help Nash. During the attack, the 200-pound animal had ripped Nash’s eyelids, lips and nose from her face. In addition, her hands were also torn apart.
Immediately after Nash arrived at the hospital, she was operated on for more than seven hours. During her many subsequent operations, doctors had to reattach her jaw. However, they also discovered she would be permanently blind. Furthermore, they found she had also suffered significant brain-tissue injuries.
But while such an ordeal might have proved more than many people could handle, Nash’s spirit wasn’t completely crushed, it seems. Just months after the attack, she told TODAY, “I just want to go on with my life and get better.”
In the years that followed, Nash underwent a series of facial operations. Then, in 2011, Nash had the country’s first ever two-hand and face transplant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. But while her hands didn’t take, her face transplant proved to be a success. And that was just the beginning of Nash’s recovery.
In 2016, Nash had regained her independence. Furthermore, she had gained the confidence to speak about her ordeal in an interview with TODAY. “I never thought I’d be like this,” she admitted in her candid chat with Meredith Vieira.
“I’ve always been independent. As far as the help, I have just what I need,” Nash explained, revealing that she now stays mobile thanks to a service for disabled people. “You feel like you’re almost normal,” she added. “You feel like you’re a person again.”
During the interview, Nash also spoke candidly about her military-funded transplant. And, although it didn’t completely work for her, she was glad to have taken part. “It would help all the service men and women and other people getting hurt and needing transplants,” she said.
“The study is not a failure,” Nash added, defiantly. They’ve learned so much from all my testing and my input. It’ll help with the future going forward.” Once again, Nash was able to see the bright side of a gloomy situation.
Despite everything, Nash still had a love of life. When quizzed what her favorite time of day was, she replied, “The morning I think.” She added, “I hear the birds singing. I can feel the sun. It’s like another good day. Let’s get started.”
Two things Nash never lost were her sense of humor and her love of fashion. However, she is also keen to start riding horses once more. And having seen just how far she’s already come, it seems likely she will achieve her dream.
Meanwhile, Nash has been testing out a bionic arm which will help her complete daily tasks more easily. And she also told TODAY she was keen to move from Boston back to Connecticut, where she could be closer to her beloved daughter. While her ordeal has been truly horrific, it seems that Nash remains determined to live life to the full.