Despite being horribly disfigured and blinded, the victim of a vicious attack by a pet chimpanzee holds no anger against the animal’s owner, a onetime friend who died suddenly Tuesday.
Charla Nash said one of her brothers told her that Sandra Herold had died alone and friendless of an aortic aneurysm in her Connecticut home. Herold was 72.
“When I first heard it, I was quiet, and then I told my brother I kind of feel bad, and my condolences to her family,” Nash told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Tuesday in her assisted living facility near Boston. Nash said that Herold’s death was “sad. I’m sure all this troubled her a lot.”
“All this” is the horrendous damage that the 56-year-old Nash struggles every day to recover from. She lost her hands, face and eyes when she was attacked by Herold’s 200-pound adult male chimpanzee, Travis, 15 months ago. The chimp had once starred in TV ads and was well known around town as being rambunctious, but not dangerous.
But wildlife experts have warned that adult chimpanzees are unpredictable. They are many times more powerful than humans, and can attack without warning. When they do, they go for vital parts of the anatomy like hands and faces.
Herold had lost her husband several years earlier. Then her young adult daughter died in a car accident. After police shot Travis in the wake of the attack on Nash, Herold was left without the animal she treated as a son. She had no immediate family and faced public vilification and a $50 million lawsuit from Nash.
‘You can’t hold anger’
Nash told Vieira she’s aware of all that Herold went through, and because of that can’t allow herself to be ruled by anger at what happened to her.
“I’ve gotten angry at times,” Nash told Vieira. “But you can’t hold anger. It’s unhealthy. It goes through you. You’ve got to enjoy what you have.”
Nash talked in her room, gesturing with a right hand that has one finger remaining and a left arm that ends at the wrist. Her disfigured face — reconstructed as best as the surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic could manage — was covered by a scarf hanging from a straw hat.
“They put me back together pretty good,” she said.
Taken to the Cleveland Clinic shortly after the attack, Nash was released three weeks ago and moved to her new facility, where she is awaiting news on whether she will qualify for a hand and face transplant. She’s optimistic that she will get either hands, a face, or both.
Video: Chimp victim: ‘I just want to go on with my life’ “If it’s just a face, I can eat better,” Nash said. “If it’s hands, I can feed myself and my hands will act like eyes to me. I can open things, touch both sides where I’m going. It will be like eyes.”
Nash has a teenage daughter, Briana, who will be graduating from high school soon. Nash has not been outside the grounds of her assisted living facility, and wants to make Briana’s graduation her first outing in public.
“What a nice way to spend it — with everyone,” she said of the prospect.
Vieira reported that the high school has offered to set up a private area where Nash can attend the ceremonies, but the feisty woman wants to sit with everyone else and be part of the crowd. She hopes to be able to move into an apartment of her own sometime this summer, Vieira said.
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