STAMFORD - The Stamford woman who underwent a facial transplant five years ago after being nearly mauled to death by a chimpanzee was hospitalized Wednesday after doctors discovered her body is rejecting the transplant.
Charla Nash survived an attack in 2009 by a chimp owned by her best friend. Nash was so disfigured that she often wore a veil to keep from being seen.
Dr. Christine Hamilton-Hall operated on Nash after her skin, eyes, and facial bones were ripped apart by the chimp, who appeared in American television shows and commercials.
She says it's common for people's bodies to reject facial transplants.
"Any time you have a transplant, it's seen as a foreign body and it's something your body tries to reject, just like it tries to fight off a cold," she says.
News 12 is told doctors are hoping to reverse the rejection by weening Nash off of an experimental drug treatment paid for by the U.S. military and putting her back on her original medication.
Dr. Hamilton-Hall says anyone with a facial transplant would need to be on anti-rejection medications for their entire life. She says it won't take long to see if Nash is making progress.
"You start to see some idea within 24 to 48 hours," she says. "Just like if you were to have an allergic reaction to peanut butter, you give somebody Benadryl or an epipen and you can almost immediately see that they're getting better."
Dr. Hamilton-Hall says it's premature to say that Nash will lose her face despite changing her medications.
She says if Nash does lose the transplant, she will be eligible for another one.