Published 2022-02-09
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Charla Nash - Activist Who Lost Her Face In A Chimpanzee Attack.

Throughout the years there have been many campaigns to raise awareness about the dangers of adopting exotic animals who aren’t the usual pets you’d find in someone’s home. And one case has been an example that showed just how much of a bad idea something like that could be. The story features a chimpanzee that was considered to be completely harmless in the eyes of its owner and they had considered it to be a domestic animal. However they soon had learned just how wrong they would be as after adopting it in 1995 and having it as a docile pet that never showed any signs of violence for 14 years, the unthinkable happened as the animal was involved in a terrible attack. What exactly happened that led to it? Who was Charla Nash and how badly was she injured? Read on to find out more!

Charla’s Life

As you can imagine, the aftermath of the terrifying attack is something that Charla struggles with to this day as a result of her injuries. With a desire to be able to have a relatively normal life she received a face transplant. However, this also had brought many consequences to her already deteriorated health. The tragedy happened in Connecticut, USA, and Travis the chimpanzee was considered to have been a friendly animal that was owned by the victim’s friend, Sandra Herold who had taken care of it since it was a baby. But what exactly happened? Read on to find out.

Who Exactly Is Travis?

The chimpanzee named Travis was born on October 21st, 1995, He was taken from a chimp sanctuary in Missouri, after being adopted by Herold and her husband Jerome. When the little primate was only 3 days old and the family had welcomed him in and treated him like a son. Travis would often accompany his “parents” to the store, play with their neighbors. He could also help out with small household chores such as locking and unlocking doors, watering the plants in the garden, he also knew how to use the TV remote control, how to turn on the computer and he was even able to start a car.

The Intelligence Of Travis

The chimpanzee was indisputably intelligent. He could also take care of his own hygiene by brushing his own teeth. As a member of the family, he ate at the table with them and his owners even said that he could drink wine. The most surprising thing of all this is that the animal was already famous before the atrocious attack, as he starred in commercials and was invited onto some TV shows. Sandra had received several hard blows in life, such as the death of her husband Jerome in 2004 due to cancer, as well as the passing of her son in a car accident. As a result of this, she had an even greater fixation on the chimp and had a very strong bond with him.

Can’t Take A Wild Animal Out Of Travis

Although all the signs pointed to the fact that Travis was a domesticated pet, he still never ceased to be a wild animal, no matter how educated and adapted to society he seemed. Though there was a previous incident that the chimp was involved in prior to the one involving Charla. Back in 2003, a person passing by a car accidentally threw an object out their window and it ended up hitting the car that Travis was in. The animal got out and ran after said vehicle for many blocks. Luckily, the person could escape but the animal did not want to return to its owners and the police were called to intervene. This event resulted in a change in the laws in Connecticut, which stated that it was forbidden to keep exotic animals weighing more than 22 kilos in a house. Despite the fact that Travis weighed 91 kilos, the law did not apply to him and he remained with his “parents” as he was not considered a danger for having lived with the family for so many years. However, that would soon turn out to be a big mistake.

The Attack That Changed Charla Nash’s Life

It was February 16th, 2009, that Charla Nash, aged 55 at the time, went to visit her friend Sandra, who was also her co-worker. Travis’ owner was 70 at the time and her pet had ineracted with Nash plenty of times before. However, while it is not 100% known what triggered the attack that day, it was speculated that it was Charla’s new hairstyle that was to blame and the animal decided to attack after she took one of his toys into her hands.

Travis’ Vicious Attack

It was that instant that Travis had pounced on Nash and attacked her in a bestial way, biting and slashing her face. Right away, Sandra called 911 for help and said the phrased that most likely not only shocked by also disconcerted the operator: “My chimpanzee is eating my friend”. The animal had torn out Nash’s eyes, lips, eyelids, and both hands. The terrible attack lasted about 12 agonizing minutes, all while the chimp’s owner of course had tried to stop it, hitting it with a shovel in the head, and even stabbing the animal 3 times with a knife, although none of these attempts were successful. The end to this terrible, real-life nightmare came when a police officer appeared and was the one to stop the primate, with four shots in the back.

Life after the severe attack

The injuries that Charla suffered were totally terrifying and according to the doctors who attended to her, they could have also cost her, her life. Nash had to endure around 8 hours of reconstructive surgeries on her face and hands alone, which were carried out by more than three teams of surgeons. Unfortunately, she lost all of her hands, lips, nose, eyes, and eyelids, as well as part of the bone structure of her face. The attack also resulted in serious brain damage, and Charla's family began a major campaign to pay the hospital's staggering bill. An autopsy was performed on the chimpanzee's body in order to find out if he was a carrier of rabies, however, the results showed that he did not have this disease, but they found traces of Xanax in his system, which is a fast-acting tranquilizer that can have some side effects which can include disorientation and although not very often, also hallucinations, aggression, and anger.

What Happened To Travis’ Owner?

As for what happened to Mrs. Herold after the account, sadly she had lost her life to an aneurysm within a year after the attack. Nash was awarded more than $3 million from a lawsuit against her friend's estate. Later she would give several interviews, in which she talked about living in a center dedicated to the care of people with various disabilities. In her own words, she said: “I lost a lot of independence. I could change the tire on my truck and now I can’t even eat by myself. It is very difficult to live. I can’t even live, this is a half-life. Sometimes I want to cry, go out, go home. I don’t know what my future holds and that scares me.” She had even appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show, where she looked completely shattered.

Undergoing Facial Transplants

The woman had undergone several face transplants, however, this has also brought several consequences to her health. In 2016 she had to be urgently hospitalized for another rejection of the transplant, which was followed by experimental treatments conducted by doctors at Brigham Hospital. Nash is now an activist and advocate for laws to ban the adoption of wild animals, especially primates as pets.

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