First Photo Released of Charla Nash, Face-Transplant Recipient

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Charla Nash, before and after. The undated photo on the right shows Nash after having received a full face transplant in May 2011 (Photo: Brigham and Women's Hospital / Reuters)

Charla Nash, who lost her face and hands after being mauled by a friend’s 200-lb. pet chimpanzee two years ago, is recovering well from her face-transplant surgery in May. On Thursday, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston released the first photo of Nash with her new face.

Nash had been wearing a veil since the February 2009 attack, in which the chimpanzee ripped off her hands, nose, lips and eyelids. Now Nash’s family members say she can make expressions and that they can see emotions register on her face. Her speech is improving, and she is regaining the ability to eat and smell.

“I will now be able to do things I once took for granted,” said Nash, 57, in a statement. “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. I am tremendously grateful to the donor and her family.”

Although Nash’s new face does not look like the one she lost, her new appearance has over time grown more reminiscent of the way she used to look. As the transplant has healed, the donor face has molded to Nash’s underlying bone structure and muscle.

During the 20-hour surgery this past spring, Nash also underwent a double hand transplant, but the hands failed to thrive because of complications and were removed.

“Losing the new hands is just a bump in the road of my recovery. I believe that one day I’ll have two hands to help me live as a blind person with confidence,” Nash said.

Nash’s surgery was the third full-face transplant to be performed in the U.S. It involved a 30-member surgical team led by Dr. Bohdan Pomanhac at Brigham and Women’s.