THURSDAY, Aug. 11, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Three months after receiving a full face transplant, a Connecticut woman severely mauled by a friend's pet chimpanzee in 2009 is showing her new face for the first time.
Brigham & Woman's Hospital, Boston, where Charla Nash received the full face transplant in late May, released the first post-surgical photo of the patient on Thursday.
Nash, who lost her sight, nose, lips and hands in the attack at her friend's home, included with the photo a letter thanking the many doctors, nurses and health care workers, and the donor's family for making her progress possible.
"These transplants could not have been possible without the generosity of a family unknown to me. They gave me a face and hands. I will now be able to do things I once took for granted. I will be able to smell. I will be able to eat normally. I will no longer be disfigured," wrote Nash, 57. "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."
After lifesaving surgery at Stamford Hospital in Connecticut and 16 months at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, Nash was moved to BWH in June 2010, where she also underwent a double hand transplant. That procedure failed, and the hands had to be removed, because of complications from pneumonia, but it appears she took that disappointment in stride.
"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," she wrote in the letter.
Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, director of the hospital's Plastic Surgery Transplantation Program, said, "It's wonderful to see how Charla's recovery has progressed as she continues taking steps toward her new life."
For the 20-hour face transplant performed in late May, Pomahac led a team of more than 30 doctors, nurses and anesthesiologists. It was the third full face transplant at the hospital, which in 1954 performed the first successful human organ donor transplant -- a kidney donated from brother to brother.
To learn more about organ transplantation, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.