Face Transplant: ‘Last Resort'

Doctors at The Cleveland Clinic have many options to help Charla Nash recover from a vicious chimp attack in Stamford that left her with devastating injuries.

While the Ohio medical facility is known most for being the first in the United States to perform a face transplant, doctors in Connecticut say a face transplant will likely be a last resort for Nash, 55.

Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman Eileen Shiel says Nash is being treated for trauma to her face and lower extremities.

Dr. Paul Stanislaw, a facial reconstructive surgeon in Avon, said Nash's injuries are similar to those that can occur in a dog attack and doctors will likely treat her injuries that way.  The first steps for doctors in Cleveland will be to make sure Nash heals properly, he said.

"They will see if there are things that they could do to heal the wounds right now to improve healing or speed up healing and not burn bridges down the road," Stanislaw said.

Nash suffered extensive facial damage, including damage to her nose, jaw and eyes, along with hand injuries, when she was attacked, Dr. Kevin Miller of Stamford Hospital said Wednesday.

Stanislaw thinks Cleveland Clinic doctors will try to reconstruct Nash's face using existing tissue and possible skin grafts. 

A face transplant, which is rare, is a last resort, and Nash could spend months on a transplant list, he said.

If the surgery happens, Nash would then be on medicine for the rest of her life.

Nash had been at Stamford Hospital for treatment after being mauled by Travis, a 14-year-old domesticated chimpanzee owned by her friend, Sandra Herold of Stamford, Monday. She and her family were taken by private jet to the Cleveland Clinic Thursday afternoon.

Police shot and killed the chimp.

When he was younger, Travis starred in TV commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola, made an appearance on the "Maury Povich Show" and took part in a television pilot, according to a 2003 story in The Advocate newspaper of Stamford.

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