Mauling Victim Seeks New Hand, Face Transplant Site

Tue, 01/26/2010 - 5:45am

The hospital known for doing the United States' first face transplant has told the family of a woman mauled by a chimpanzee that it can't perform a face and hand transplant for her. Charla Nash's family is looking into alternative facilities after the Cleveland Clinic said it could not do both transplants, and both procedures would need to be done simultaneously and come from the same donor.

A 200-pound chimpanzee went berserk last February after its owner asked Nash to help lure it back into her house. The animal ripped off Nash's hands, nose, lips and eyelids. The clinic does not believe it has the capability to do the hand transplant surgery, but has not ruled out the possibility of collaborating with another hospital.

Nash's family is researching the possibilities of the transplants at a few other hospitals in the United States and one in Canada. A face transplant would help Nash smell, breath and eat, while a hand transplant would help her be more independent. Nash has great difficulty eating and mostly uses a straw.

Even if Nash was declared a candidate for the transplants, the surgery would not be done for years. Nash, who revealed her heavily disfigured face in November on The Oprah Winfrey Show, has been at the Cleveland Clinic since soon after the attack. She expects to be discharged soon to an undetermined facility for rehabilitation. Nash's family is suing the owner for $50 million.

Nash worked for the animal’s owner, as it played a promotional role in a tow-truck business, so the case could be treated like a workers' compensation claim. The strategy, if successful, would limit potential damages.

Test results showed that the chimp had the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in his system. He was later shot and killed by police.


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