Shots - Health Blog
6:28 pm
Thu August 11, 2011

'I Will No Longer Be Disfigured': First Photos of Transplant Patient Released

The Boston hospital that gave Charla Nash a new face in May has released the first post-surgery photo of the transplant's results.

Nash's face was mauled by an out-of-control chimpanzee in 2009. Before the transplant, she wore a veil to conceal the grotesquely misshapen face that was the best plastic surgeons could do.

Her transplanted face is smooth and normally proportioned, with little or no sign it came from another person, whose family consented to the donation after death. The operation was done by a team at Brigham and Women's Hospital, which has performed three full-face transplants this year.

In a statement, Nash thanked the unknown family. "I will now be able to do things I once took for granted," she writes. "I will be able to smell. I will be able to eat normally. I will no longer be disfigured. I will have lips and will speak clearly once again. I will be able to kiss and hug loved ones."

She will never see again, since her eyes were irreparably damaged in the attack and eye transplants are not yet possible.

Nash also lost both hands. A double-hand transplant done at the same time as her face transplant, from the same donor, failed after she suffered a post-surgical bout of pneumonia that caused her blood pressure to fall, so the hands were deprived of sufficient blood at a crucial time.

Nash calls the loss of the transplanted hands "just a bump in the road of my recovery." She hopes to try another double-hand transplant.

"I believe that one day I'll have two hands to help me live as a blind person with confidence," she says.

If that happens, Nash will be the first person in the world to have a successful transplant of both face and hands.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.