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Video: Despite injuries from chimp, she regrets owner’s death

  1. Closed captioning of: Despite injuries from chimp, she regrets owner’s death

    >>> it's been 15 months since charla nash lost her face and hands in that attack. she left the cleveland clinic and moved to an assisted li eed living center outside boston. i met up with her on the day she learned of sandra herold's death. i started by asking her about it.

    >> i just heard that a little while ago. when i first heard it, i was quiet. and then i told my brother, i kind of feel bad. you know? it's sad.

    >> when you say you kind of feel bad, what do you mean?

    >> i started all this trouble.

    >> you think what happened troubled her a lot?

    >> yeah.

    >> how are you able to let go of the anger which would be natural given what happened to you? or have you let go of it?

    >> you know, i don't hold it. i can't hold it in me. it's unhealthy to hold it in you. she has to live with it more than me. you know? it's something she created.

    >> something she created.

    >> yeah.

    >> was it hard to let go of that anger?

    >> no. it was like everything was okay. you can't hold anger. it's unhealthy. it flows through you, through your veins.

    >> 15 months after the attack that left her blind, without hands and a face, charla nash remains hopeful about her future. doctors at the cleveland clinic credit her positive outlook to her survival. charla left the cleveland clinic three weeks ago. you were at the cleveland clinic for almost 15 months, i think it is. was it hard to leave there, char charla?

    >> it was time for me to leave.

    >> it was time?

    >> yeah. i needed to leave. they were so nice to me. and they helped me. and, you know, they put me back together pretty much.

    >> give it a good push. wonderful.

    >> charla wants her face and hands transplanted. she didn't feet the protocol for the procedures at the cleveland clinic . she's going through extensive testing hoping to become a candidate for the transplants there. what are they saying? are they saying anything yet about whether you are a candidate for a face and a hand transplant ?

    >> i think it's looking pretty good, yeah. i know they have more tests they can do on me.

    >> what would it mean to you, charli, to get this transplant.

    >> if it's a face, i would look better. if it's hands, i could feed myself. and my hands, i would be able to open things, touch both sides where i'm going. it would be like eyes.

    >> charla will learn whether or not she is a candidate for transplant within the next few months. for now she works on strength doing physical therapy three te times a week. she wants to gain as much independence as she could.

    >> did you get out of bed without anybody helping you to find the bathroom?

    >> yes.

    >> can you show me how you do that? you got it, charli, that's it.

    >> it's a little hard coming back. this is where i get lost.

    >> hard coming back to the bed?

    >> yeah. i ended up over there, over there.

    >> she hasn't mastered the room yet, but the sound of my voice helps her along.

    >> i'm not going to help you --

    >> i hear you. [ laughter ]

    >> dumb, dumb.

    >> thank you.

    >> all right. i forgot your hearing is so acute now. i should zip it. [ laughter ]

    >> charla nash credits her strength to prayer and her family. her brothers, mike and steve, and her daughter brianna have been through her side through it all.

    >> the love of your life, brianna .

    >> yeah.

    >> i can't believe about to graduate from high school . and you're going to be there?

    >> i hope so. i'm going to try. yeah.

    >> will that be the first time that you have ventured out --

    >> yes.

    >> so in a way it's her graduation but it's your coming out.

    >> you could say that, yeah. what a nice way to spend it, with everyone.

    >> what a nice way to spend it with everyone.

    >> yeah.

    >> the school offered to set up a private space for charla to attend if she's able to make it. charla said she wants to be where everybody else is. she wants to thank everyone for their support, especially brianna 's guidance counselor who helped her navigate choices for college. so she's grateful to her.

    >> i like the idea that she doesn't want to be separated.

    >> it's her coming out as well for her.

    >> right.

    >> it will be a big moment for her.

    >> what a spirit.

    >> she's hoping to move into an apartment of her own within a couple months or sooner and she'll find out about the transplant in a couple of months.

    >> thanks for bringing us absolutely.

TODAY contributor
updated 5/26/2010 11:14:53 AM ET 2010-05-26T15:14:53

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.

Charla Nash as she looked before a chimpanzee attacked her.
Despite her grievous injuries, Nash said that Herold probably had a harder time coping with what happened than she. “She [had] to live with it more than me. It’s something she created,” Nash said of Herold.

Looking ahead
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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