Charla Nash opens up about recent face transplant setback, living independently 7 years later

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Charla Nash opens up about recent face transplant setback

Charla Nash, the Connecticut woman who received a face transplant after a horrific attack by a friend's pet chimpanzee, had a minor setback last week when her body began to reject the transplant after doctors tried to wean her off anti-rejection drugs.

Meredith Vieira visited with Nash to catch up on all that has happened in the last few years, including Nash's most recent trip to the hospital.

"I had no idea what was going on," Nash told Vieira. "But then this one biopsy said a slight rejection."

RELATED: Photos of Charla Nash

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Charla Nash opens up about recent face transplant setback, living independently 7 years later
Charla Nash speaks with the media before Connecticut legislators at a public hearing at the Legislative Office Building, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Hartford, Conn. Nash who was mauled by a friend's chimpanzee in 2009 is making a personal plea to allow her to sue the state for $150 million in damages. The panel is considering a bill that would override the June decision by the State Claims Commissioner, who dismissed Nash's initial request for permission to sue. The state generally is immune from lawsuits, unless allowed by the claims commissioner. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Charla Nash, of Stamford, Connecticut, pictured March 21, 2012, was so severely mauled by Sandra Herold's 200-pound pet chimpanzee Travis, that she lost her hands and face. Nash received a face transplant in 2010 and is now filing a claim that would allow her to sue the state of Connecticut for allowing a dangerous animal to reside in Herold's home. Nash has not been home since the attack and resides in a Boston-area rehab center. (Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant/MCT via Getty Images)
Charla Nash, of Stamford, Connecticut, pictured March 21, 2012, was so severely mauled by Sandra Herold's 200-pound pet chimpanzee Travis, that she lost her hands and face. Nash received a face transplant in 2010 and is now filing a claim that would allow her to sue the state of Connecticut for allowing a dangerous animal to reside in Herold's home. Nash has not been home since the attack and resides in a Boston-area rehab center. (Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant/MCT via Getty Images)
Charla Nash, right, eats a banana with help from her daughter Briana Nash during a public hearing with Connecticut legislators at the Legislative Office Building, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Hartford, Conn. Nash who was mauled by a friend's chimpanzee in 2009 is making a personal plea to allow her to sue the state for $150 million in damages. The panel is considering a bill that would override the June decision by the State Claims Commissioner, who dismissed Nash's initial request for permission to sue. The state generally is immune from lawsuits, unless allowed by the claims commissioner. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Charla Nash sits before for a hearing at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Conn., Friday, Aug. 10, 2012. Nash who was mauled in a 2009 chimpanzee attack is attending a hearing to determine whether she may sue the state for $150 million in claimed damages. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Charla Nash sits before a hearing at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Conn., Friday, Aug. 10, 2012. Nash who was mauled in a 2009 chimpanzee attack is attending a hearing to determine whether she may sue the state for $150 million in claimed damages. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
The gated driveway to the home where a woman was mauled by a chimpanzee this week is seen on Friday, Feb. 20, 2009 in Stamford, Conn. Police say Travis attacked Charla Nash of Stamford, when she arrived at owner Sandra Herold's house to help lure the chimp back inside. Herold speculated that Travis was being protective of her and attacked Nash because she had a different hairstyle, was driving a different car and held a stuffed toy in front of her face to get the chimp's attention. (AP Photo/Douglas Healey)
The gated driveway to the home where a woman was mauled by a chimpanzee this week is seen on Friday, Feb. 20, 2009 in Stamford, Conn. Police say Travis attacked Charla Nash of Stamford, when she arrived at owner Sandra Herold's house to help lure the chimp back inside. Herold speculated that Travis was being protective of her and attacked Nash because she had a different hairstyle, was driving a different car and held a stuffed toy in front of her face to get the chimp's attention. (AP Photo/Douglas Healey)
Briana Nash, left, looks at her mother, Charla Nash after she finished speaking to Connecticut legislators at a public hearing at the Legislative Office Building, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Hartford, Conn. Nash who was mauled by a friend's chimpanzee in 2009 is making a personal plea to allow her to sue the state for $150 million in damages. The panel is considering a bill that would override the June decision by the State Claims Commissioner, who dismissed Nash's initial request for permission to sue. The state generally is immune from lawsuits, unless allowed by the claims commissioner. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Briana Nash, left, helps her mother Charla Nash with a mesh cap before she speaks before Connecticut legislators at a public hearing at the Legislative Office Building, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Hartford, Conn. Nash who was mauled by a friend's chimpanzee in 2009 is making a personal plea to allow her to sue the state for $150 million in damages. The panel is considering a bill that would override the June decision by the State Claims Commissioner, who dismissed Nash's initial request for permission to sue. The state generally is immune from lawsuits, unless allowed by the claims commissioner. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Charla Nash pulls away a mesh cap to show her wound and bandages before speaking with Connecticut legislators at a public hearing at the Legislative Office Building, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Hartford, Conn. Nash who was mauled by a friend's chimpanzee in 2009 is making a personal plea to allow her to sue the state for $150 million in damages. The panel is considering a bill that would override the June decision by the State Claims Commissioner, who dismissed Nash's initial request for permission to sue. The state generally is immune from lawsuits, unless allowed by the claims commissioner. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Charla Nash arrives with her brother Stephen, left, for a hearing at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Conn., Friday, Aug. 10, 2012. Nash who was mauled in a 2009 chimpanzee attack is attending a hearing to determine whether she may sue the state for $150 million in claimed damages. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
FILE - These undated file photos provided Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011 by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital show chimpanzee attack victim Charla Nash after the attack, left, and post-face transplant surgery, right. The U.S. government wants to start regulating face and hand transplants just as kidneys, hearts and other organs are now. That means establishing waiting lists, a system to allocate body parts and donor testing to prevent deadly infections. Officials say this is a big step toward expanding access to these radical operations, especially for wounded troops returning home. The new rule is expected to take effect later in 2012 or early 2013. (AP Photo/Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Lightchaser Photography, File)
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Nash was backing off her anti-rejection drugs as part of a military-funded study designed to determine whether patients who receive arm, hand, leg or face transplants can safely taper off the medications, which come with serious side effects, including high blood pressure and diabetes.

Though the experiment didn't work in her case, Nash doesn't regret taking part in it.

"It would help all the service men and women and other people getting hurt and needing transplants," she said. "The study is not a failure. They've learned so much from all my testing and my input. It'll help with the future going forward."

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Fortunately, there won't be lasting effects on Nash's face. Once she's back on the medications, doctors say her body should accept the transplanted face once again.

Nash's odyssey started back in 2009 when her face was mangled during a vicious attack by a friend's pet chimpanzee, which left her without a nose, eyes or lips. The mauling also left Nash permanently blind from an infection spread by the chimp.

Vieira interviewed Nash several months after the attack. Already Nash was showing the resilience that has carried her through it all.

"I just want to get on with my life and get better," she told Vieira at the time.

After numerous surgeries over the next two years, Nash went to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston where doctors performed the nation's first double hand and face transplant. The hands failed to thrive, but the face transplant was a success.

Now, Vieira asked: "Did you believe, back then, that you would ever reach this point? "

"No," Nash said.

These days Nash lives on her own in a small apartment close to Brigham and Women's. She has an aide to help her Monday through Friday, but manages on her own on the weekends — which is very important to her.

RELATED: Liberian Chimps

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Charla Nash opens up about recent face transplant setback, living independently 7 years later
In this photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, a caretaker feeds chimpanzees on the six mangrove outcroppings that make up Chimpanzee Island, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southeast of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. These chimpanzees are among 66 that were used for research for years. The New York Blood Center did tests on the chimps for Hepatitis B and other diseases in Liberia in the 1970s, stopping about a decade ago. In March the center stopped payments to care for the animals, according to the Washington-based Humane Society, which is now helping to support the chimpanzees and looking for a long-term solution. (AP Photo/ Abbas Dulleh)
In this photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, a caretaker feeds chimpanzees on the six mangrove outcroppings that make up Chimpanzee Island, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southeast of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. These chimpanzees are among 66 that were used for research for years. The New York Blood Center did tests on the chimps for Hepatitis B and other diseases in Liberia in the 1970s, stopping about a decade ago. In March the center stopped payments to care for the animals, according to the Washington-based Humane Society, which is now helping to support the chimpanzees and looking for a long-term solution. (AP Photo/ Abbas Dulleh)
In this photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, a caretaker interacts with a chimpanzee after feeding time, on the six mangrove outcroppings that make up Chimpanzee Island, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southeast of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. These chimpanzees are among 66 that were used for research for years. The New York Blood Center did tests on the chimps for Hepatitis B and other diseases in Liberia in the 1970s, stopping about a decade ago. In March the center stopped payments to care for the animals, according to the Washington-based Humane Society, which is now helping to support the chimpanzees and looking for a long-term solution. (AP Photo/ Abbas Dulleh)
In this photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, a caretaker interacts with a chimpanzee after feeding time, on the six mangrove outcroppings that make up Chimpanzee Island, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southeast of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. These chimpanzees are among 66 that were used for research for years. The New York Blood Center did tests on the chimps for Hepatitis B and other diseases in Liberia in the 1970s, stopping about a decade ago. In March the center stopped payments to care for the animals, according to the Washington-based Humane Society, which is now helping to support the chimpanzees and looking for a long-term solution. (AP Photo/ Abbas Dulleh)
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"I've always been independent," she said. "So I just wanted to go back to what I had. And as far as help—I have just what I need."

With the help of a transport service for the disabled, Nash is able to get out of the house. That's very important to her.

"You feel like you're almost normal," she said. "You feel like you're a person again."

Ever the fighter, Nash isn't willing to accept limitations. She's got a new goal to work toward.

"I want to ride horses again," she told Vieira. "I don't want to just sit around. I want to ride."

"Do you think you will?" Vieira said.

"I will," Nash assured her.

In the meantime, Nash has to deal with day-to-day struggles to make ends meet.

"I wish I had more gas and more showers, more care," she said. "But you know, we can't have everything, I guess. But I'm thankful for what I do have."

A GoFundMe page "Help Charla Nash" has raised more than $13,000.

Despite unimaginable challenges, Nash's spirit is unbreakable and she still finds joy at every turn — especially in the mornings.

"I hear the birds singing," she said. "And now that the sun is coming out, I can feel the sun. And it's like another good day. Let's get started."

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