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Victim of chimp attack gets a full face transplant
While the loss of her transplanted hands was disappointing, Pomahac said in an interview with The Associated Press that doctors will probably attempt another double hand transplant on her with a new donor after waiting at least six months for Nash to heal.
“For a blind patient, I think the hands do provide the contact to the outside world, and ultimately the road to independence … and that’s why I think she will want to have it done in the future,” he said.
Nash still has an optic nerve, even though the chimp attack destroyed her eyes. Transplanting eyes is “science fiction at this point, but you never know,” Pomahac said.
He said at the news conference that her left arm was replaced at the mid-forearm. Her right hand was replaced at the wrist, except for the thumb, which was all she had left.
Several days after the operation, Nash developed pneumonia and suffered a drop in blood pressure, which compromised blood flow to the hands. Doctors eventually had to remove the transplanted hands.
Experts not connected with the case said it was 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.
Doing the operations 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 Dr. Warren Breidenbach, who led the nation’s first hand transplant, in 1999 at Jewish Hospital and the University of Louisville. He 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.
Nash’s family is suing the estate of the chimp’s owner, Sandra Herold, for $50 million and wants to sue the state for $150 million, saying officials failed to prevent the attack. Herold died last year of an aneurysm.
Herold 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.
By Brahma Chellaney
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