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Woman mauled by chimp is evaluated at Brigham

By Elizabeth Cooney
Globe Correspondent / May 11, 2010

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A Connecticut woman who was mauled and blinded by a chimpanzee last year arrived at a Boston hospital yesterday morning to be evaluated for possible face and hand transplants.

Charla Nash, whose hands, nose, lips, and eyelids were ripped off in the attack, is undergoing two days of tests at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to determine whether she could be helped by a team that performed its first face transplant in April 2009.

It would be the first hand transplants at the hospital.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,’’ transplant team leader Dr. Bohdan Pomahac said in an interview yesterday.

Over the weekend Nash moved to an assisted-living center in the Boston area to continue her rehabilitation. On Thursday, she was discharged from the Cleveland Clinic, where she has had multiple surgeries following the February 2009 attack at a friend’s home in Stamford, Conn. The Cleveland Clinic performed the first face transplant in the United States in 2008, five months before doctors at the Brigham did theirs.

Nash’s injuries are so severe that she cannot eat or breathe normally, relying instead on feeding and breathing tubes. Blindness makes her life harder, Pomahac said.

“For a blind person, not having hands is probably the worst possible scenario,’’ he said. “The hands are very critical for her function in the future.’’

Face and hand transplants could potentially allow her to live independently, he said. A decision will be made over the next few months after lab tests, imaging studies, and assessments by psychiatrists, physicians, and rehabilitation specialists.

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