Medical history was made last month when Charla Nash, the victim of a gruesome chimpanzee attack, received a full facial transplant and two hand transplants simultaneously. Nash’s face transplant was just the third in history to be done in the United States. Performing the two risky surgeries at once had never been done before, but is said to be perfectly ethical as performing a hand transplant on Nash at a later time would likely involve different donor tissue than in the face.
Dr. Warren Breidenbach, who led America’s first hand transplant in 1999, explains that using more than one donor’s tissue in a transplant raises the chances that the recipient’s body will reject the new tissue.
Connecticut resident Nash was brutally attacked by a friend’s pet chimp in 2009 and lost sight in both eyes. Her nose, mouth, ears, and both hands were torn off by the animal. Charla spent two years in a facility before undergoing the 20-hour surgery to acquire new hands and a new face at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Sadly Nash’s hand transplant was unsuccessful and lack of blood flow called for their removal. Doctors say they will try again as soon as new donor hands become available. Nash’s new face, however, looks “fantastic” according to her daughter Briana. Nash’s new face will hopefully mold to her own bone structure, making her look similar to how she looked before the attack.
When interviewed, Charla told reporters that she was looking forward to going home.
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