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Chimp attack victim gets face transplant in Boston
Question of the Day
“We know it broke her heart,” Pomahac said, pausing to control his emotions. “I think her new face will allow Charla to be present when Briana graduates from college in a few short years.”
Steve Nash, fighting back tears, called the operation “miraculous.”
“We are confident Charla will gain her goal to regain her health and independence in the future,” he said.
The name of the donor was not disclosed to maintain her family’s privacy.
The donor can be as much as 20 years younger or up to 10 years older than the recipient and must have the same blood type and similar skin color and texture.
The Department of Defense has given the Boston hospital a grant for five face transplants in hopes that the operations can eventually benefit soldiers.
Experts not connected with the Boston case said it was medically riskier than previous transplants, but not unethical.
“Hand transplants and face transplants are big operations. When you combine the two big operations, it can be a challenge,” said Dr. Joseph Losee of the University of Pittsburgh, which has done three double and two single hand transplants and is preparing to offer face transplants soon.
Dr. Warren Breidenbach, who led the nation’s first hand transplant, in 1999 at Jewish Hospital and the University of Louisville, said:
“It is completely ethical, and the proper thing to do, to do the face and the hands at the same time.”
Doing them separately, or attempting another hand transplant for Nash in the future, raises the risk of rejection because tissue from two different donors would be involved, said Breidenbach, who is now chief of reconstructive and plastic surgery at the University of Arizona.
The Cleveland Clinic performed the nation’s first face transplant, a partial, in 2008, and had declined to attempt one on Nash.
“Her injuries were complex and we had never done a hand transplant before, so she did not meet the criteria of our protocol,” said clinic spokeswoman Eileen Sheil.
The 200-pound pet chimpanzee, named Travis, went berserk in February 2009 after its owner asked Nash to help lure it back into her Stamford, Conn. house. It ripped off Nash’s hands, nose, lips and eyelids, blinding her before being shot and killed by police.
The owner, Sandra Herold, has speculated that the chimp was trying to protect her and attacked Nash because she had changed her hairstyle, was driving a different car and was holding a stuffed toy in front of her face to get Travis’ attention.
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