Video: Chimp attack victim breaks her silence

  1. Closed captioning of: Chimp attack victim breaks her silence

    >>> but we are going to begin with charla nash speaking out for the first time nine months after being savagely mauled in that chimp attack in connecticut . nbc's jeff rossen has details. jeff, good morning.

    >> hi, meredith , good morning to you. charla nash lost almost everything in that attack -- her face, her eyes, her hands, her way of life , but she never lost her spirit, her will to live. travis the chimp mauled her last winter in connecticut . now for the first time, you're going to see her and you're going to hear her, too, but we should warn you, it was a brutal attack and some of the images are difficult and disturbing. charla nash spoke with oprah at the cleveland clinic where doctors performed a miracle and saved her life.

    >> are you in pain?

    >> no.

    >> you're in no pain?

    >> no pain.

    >> no pain. so, why do you wear the veil?

    >> so i don't scare people.

    >> mm-hmm.

    >> reporter: charla was an energetic woman, a loving mother who lived for her teenage daughter, breanna, but in a single moment, she'd never see her daughter again.

    >> he's killing my friend!

    >> who's killing your friend?

    >> my chimp ! my chimpanzee!

    >> oh, your chimpanzee is killing your friend.

    >> yes! he ripped her apart. hurry up! hurry up, please!

    >> reporter: it was nine months ago, charla went over to her friend sandy herald's house in connecticut . she had a pet chimp , travis , who suddenly snapped on charla.

    >> i don't remember anything, and they told the doctor that i don't want to remember because i couldn't imagine what it was like.

    >> because you don't want to remember.

    >> i don't want to. i want to get healthy. i don't want to wake up with nightmares.

    >> reporter: travis the chimp nearly killed her. he ripped off her mouth, her nose, lips, hands and ears. when paramedics arrived, they couldn't tell if charla was a man or a woman.

    >> but the eye doctor came in a couple weeks ago and said that it's a shame they had to remove my eyes. and that's when i really knew my eyes are not there. and i said, no wonder why they said i'd never see.

    >> reporter: charla's family is now suing the chimp 's owner, sandra herold , for $50 million and the state of connecticut for $150 million, claiming officials missed the warning signs . he was able to open doors by himself.

    >> he could drive. he took off with the car a couple times.

    >> reporter: in an exclusive interview just after the attack, sandy herold told me this was a freak accident and defended her chimp , who she raised like a child.

    >> he couldn't have been more my son than if i gave birth to him.

    >> reporter: police still haven't ruled out criminal charges against herold . after what you've been through with this, your friend is in the hospital fighting for her life -- do you still think chimps should be pets?

    >> would i have done it again? yes.

    >> these exotic animals are very dangerous.

    >> mm-hmm.

    >> and they shouldn't be around.

    >> reporter: charla's daughter brianna is 17 now and visits her mom often, as she told meredith on "today."

    >> i think the thing about her is she's kind of my best friend .

    >> reporter: the light in charla's life when everything seemed so dark.

    >> her prom is coming up, and i can't pick out her gown. she gets in bed with me.

    >> she gets in bed?

    >> yeah, we lay next to each other and we hold each other and we talk about things. i want her to have the best.

    >> reporter: but the most dramatic moment came toward the end of the show , when charla nash took the veil off. we should warn you, her facial injuries are difficult to look at, a warning oprah issued herself.

    >> her injuries are extremely, extremely severe. i have never seen anything like this in my life.

    >> you can take the hat off.

    >> oh, the hat comes off.

    >> yep.

    >> all right. all right. so, the veil is lifted.

    >> reporter: brave woman to come forward like that. charla says she was always scared of travis the chimp , but believe it or not, she says she's not angry. we requested a new interview with the chimp 's owner, sandy herold , but she declined. instead, her lawyer told us -- "sandy herold hopes and prays for a speedy recovery for her friend, charla nash . sandy's intervention on behalf of charla at the time of the attack was a courageous act that helped prevent an even greater tragedy from occurring." of course, meredith , our thoughts and prayers go out to charla and her family as well this morning.

    >> absolutely. jeff rossen , thank you. and this weekend we'll sit down with charla nash to learn more about her amazing spirit in light of such a life-altering and painful attack, and we'll have that for you monday on "today." and i think what jeff said is so true, that the chimpanzee took so much from her but not her spirit. and i credit her brothers, michael and steve, who have been there for her, and brianna, from the very beginning, caring for her. and the outpouring they talked about -- they sent out a regular e-mail, a newsletter -- the outpouring of support from around the country and around the world of people sending her e-mails that they read to her, and i think that's helped a lot in her healing process .

    >> i think you're right, based on what we heard and her response.

    >> given the severity of the wounds, it's hard to believe that she can even talk.

    >> yeah.

    >> it's amazing.

    >> but then again, it's the mother we saw with the police officer , too. she's thinking about her daughter's prom. what's she going to wear? wants to make sure she wears something that's correct for her prom for her age, so.

    >> that's sweet.

    >> the power of the human spirit .

    >> give her our thoughts and prayers.

    >>> let's see what's been happening

updated 11/12/2009 11:59:20 AM ET 2009-11-12T16:59:20

A Connecticut woman who was attacked by a 200-pound chimpanzee revealed her heavily disfigured face on television Wednesday, saying she is blind and has to eat through a straw, but isn’t angry.

“I don’t even think about it,” Charla Nash said on Wednesday’s episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” “And there’s no time for that anyways because I need to heal, you know, not look backwards.”

Winfrey removed Nash’s hat and veil to reveal her face, which was swollen and damaged beyond recognition. She had a large scar near the bottom of her face and a large piece of skin where her nose had been.

The Feb. 16 attack occurred when the animal’s owner, Sandra Herold, asked Nash, her friend and employee, to help lure the animal back into her house in Stamford, Conn. The chimpanzee ripped off Nash’s hands, nose, lips and eyelids.

Police shot and killed the animal. Nash has been hospitalized since. She remains in stable condition at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

Nash doesn't ask many questions about injuries
Nash told Winfrey that she is not in pain, but can’t breathe through her nose and has to eat through a straw. She said she doesn’t touch her face very often.

“I know that I have my forehead,” Nash said. “It feels like just patches of tape or gauze or covering, covering my face.”

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago, when an eye doctor told Nash she no longer had her eyes, that she realized she would never see again, she said. Nash said she doesn’t ask many questions about her injuries.

Charla Nash revealed her reconstructed face on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" Wednesday.
“It’s like less for me to worry about if I don’t know,” she said.

Nash said she didn’t remember anything from the attack and doesn’t want to.

“I want to get healthy,” she said. “I don’t want to wake up with nightmares.”

Nash’s family has filed a $50 million lawsuit against Herold, saying she was negligent and reckless for lacking the ability to control “a wild animal with violent propensities.”

Herold’s attorney has argued the attack was work-related and the case should be treated as a workers’ compensation claim. Herold’s attorney, Robert Golger, provided Winfrey with a statement, saying Herold wishes Nash the best.

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“All of Sandy’s hopes and prayers are with Charla and her daughter in this challenging time,” the statement read. “Sandy hopes and prays for a full and speedy recovery.”

Earlier this month, Nash’s family filed notice with Connecticut’s Office of Claims Commissioner, asking for permission to sue the state for $150 million, saying officials failed to prevent the attack. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has said his office is reviewing the claim.

Herold owned the 14-year-old chimp, named Travis, nearly all its life. When he was younger, Travis starred in TV commercials and took part in a television pilot. The animal also played a role in Herold’s towing business, appearing at the garage and attending promotional events.

A Connecticut state biologist had warned state officials beforehand that the chimp could seriously hurt someone. The animal had the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in its system, according to toxicology tests, but investigators don’t know whether the drug played a role in the attack.

Nash told Winfrey that the animal had once ripped out a hunk of her hair.

“He was big and scary,” she said. “He was huge.”

Nash said she wants to warn people about potential dangers posed by exotic animals.

“I’d like to put across to people’s minds that these exotic animals are very dangerous and they shouldn’t be around,” Nash said. “There’s a place for them that is not in residential areas, that’s for sure.”

Even if she isn’t feeling well, Nash said she pushes herself to go for a walk during the day. She wears a veil so she doesn’t scare people and to avoid insults.

“I’m the same person I’ve always been,” she said. “I just look different.”

Her daughter is a high school senior and Nash said she’s sorry they can’t spend more time together. She said she would like to have helped her daughter pick out a prom dress.

“I know she misses me,” Nash said. “I miss her, too.”

Nash said she is feeling stronger and healthier. She said she’s always been a strong person and liked to be alone, but since the attack that has changed.

“I want to be independent,” Nash said. “But I don’t want to be alone anymore. It’s scary.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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