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Behind the scenes with the real Charla Nash

Producer Stephanie Siegel, who has known the Nash family since Charla's ordeal began with a horrific attack in 2009, shares details of what it's like behind the scenes with Charla and Meredith Vieira.
/ Source: TODAY.com

“Wow.” That was Meredith Vieira’s one-word reaction to seeing chimp attack victim Charla Nash in person for the first time since her full-face transplant complete with her new prosthetic eyes.

“Wow” really does sum it up, but not just as a reaction to how she looks on the outside. Wow, she actually survived the brutal attack. Wow, she has persevered through countless hurdles and challenges. Wow, she has kept a positive outlook and spirit after suffering a fate some may consider worse than death. It is awe-inspiring to think of where she started, where she is today, and the hope of where she will be in the future.

Read more: Chimp attack victim reveals new face, new hopesTODAY Moms: Charla Nash and her daughter BrianaallDAY: Meredith Vieira on Charla's beautiful spirit

When Meredith interviewed Charla for the first time, they formed an instant connection. It was amazing to witness the special bond created between them. That bond included a dose of friendly teasing that started with Charla telling Meredith she was “kinda slow” as they walked the halls of the Cleveland Clinic in November of 2009. Then during an interview with Meredith in May of 2010, Meredith was conducting a rather unscientific test to see how well Charla could navigate around her new room in a facility outside of Boston. Only, Meredith started talking as Charla was finding her way and Charla quipped, “you just gave it away with your voice.”

November, 2009: Meredith meets Charla for the first time

So I expected nothing less than to hear Charla zing Meredith when Charla, led by her daughter Briana, walked into the room to greet Meredith during our recent interview in Boston. The first thing Charla said was, “I thought you were gone.” To which Meredith replied, “No, not gone. Maybe forgotten!” Yes, Meredith had finally found her match in Charla Nash.

I’ve gotten to know Charla well during these past few years and even though she has undergone a dramatic physical transformation since the attack, the inner Charla has not changed a bit. She is fiercely independent and hates the fact that she has to rely on others for help. She has a great sense of humor and isn’t afraid to use it. She is caring and wants to make sure other people are happy. Even when she couldn’t eat any solid food, and now even just being able to eat soft foods, she keeps her room stocked with candy and snacks for all the nurses, aides or visitors who may stop by to see her.

When she arrived for the interview last week in Boston, she brought gifts for us, candles of varying scents. Scents that she had chosen personally with her newly regained sense of smell.

The Charla I have come to know should be an inspiration to everyone. She is a fighter with an indomitable spirit and her new face is the symbol. If you are dealing with a challenge in your life, think of Charla. If she can get through what she has endured, you too can survive and thrive against the odds, whether big or small.

Click here to watch some behind-the-scenes footage of Charla and Briana during our recent trip to Boston.

Charla Nash's family has established a fund for her care at .