Charla Nash was visiting a friend in Connecticut when the pal’s 14-year-old, 200-pound (90.91 kilogramme) chimpanzee pet, Travis – which had appeared in TV commercials, suddenly leaped on her and started gauging at her flesh.
The 56 year old fended off the ape as best she could before her friend shot the creature – but was left with horrific injuries to her head, face, torso, hands and arms. The chimp ripped off her nose and broke most of the bones in her face.
Nash has been recovering at the Cleveland Clinic in Florida ever since – and a security guard has been posted outside her private room to make sure no one sees the patient without her hat, bandages and veil on.
A large section of Nash’s scalp is still missing after the attack and she no longer has eyes, and she is aware her look would startle people.
But she decided to go public with her story and her grisly injuries on Oprah in an effort to dissuade people from taking in wild animals as pets and raising them in residential areas.
Nash told Oprah Winfrey she has no recollection of her attack and doesn’t want to remember a single second: “I couldn’t imagine what it was like. They told me that if I do start remembering or getting flashbacks, they have medicine that will help me with that… I don’t want to wake up with nightmares.”
But she remembers the ape who attacked her, admitting she was always scared of him, adding, “He was huge.”
Nash recalled another time the chimp had attacked “when he was little”. She said, “He jumped on my back and he pulled a big hunk of hair outta my head and I had tears in my eyes.”
The tragic mother told Winfrey she wears a veil so she doesn’t “scare people” and doesn’t get insulted by callous onlookers, but she agreed to reveal her face on Oprah during an interview from her hospital room.
Winfrey admitted her face-to-face meeting with Nash on Tuesday (10Nov09) was “nothing you can prepare for”.
She told viewers on the show, which aired in America on Wednesday (11Nov09), “I want you to be mindful that her injuries are extremely, extremely severe. I have never seen anything like this in my life.”
Winfrey told Nash, “Many people around the world want to get a picture of you… and you’re also probably aware that once we do this interview and your picture is shown… that your picture is going to be broadcast all over the world.”
Nash said, “That’s fine… I’m starting to get stronger and ready for anything.”
Oprah added, “I will tell you that it is pretty shocking when you take the veil off and you see the devastation and destruction that has occurred to your face. When other people see it, I’m not quite sure what their reactions are (going to be).”