NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- A Connecticut woman savagely attacked by a chimpanzee is fighting for her life, but her family isn't about to give up on a woman so tough she competed on the rodeo circuit and once drove herself to the hospital to give birth.
Charla Nash lost her hands, nose, lips and eyelids in the Feb. 16 attack, the Cleveland Clinic said Wednesday. She may be blind and brain damaged, and her injuries are so severe hospital officials say it's still unclear if she can recover at all.
The chimp's owner had asked Charla Nash, her friend and employee, to come to her home the day of the attack to help lure the animal named Travis back into her house. 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.
The 200-pound chimp, which starred in television commercials when it was younger, later was shot and killed by police. They are still deciding whether Herold, of Stamford, will face criminal charges. Herold's attorney, Joe Gerardi, declined to comment Wednesday.
Nash, who is 55 and grew up in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., left home as a teenager and wound up competing around the country in the rodeo, racing horses around barrels, Stephen Nash said. She was strong enough to hitch the horse trailer to her truck on her own, he said.
"She loved it," Stephen Nash said. "She loved horses."
When her only daughter was born 17 years ago, Charla Nash drove herself about five miles to the hospital, her brother said.
Nash's first name actually was Francine, but one day she came home and declared herself Charley, later changing it to Charla, Stephen Nash said. He's not sure where she got the name, but said she may have picked it up on the rodeo circuit.
He described his sister as strong-willed and independent. She cared for horses, was a dispatcher for Herold's tow truck business and collected bottles to help pay her bills, Stephen Nash said. She had little money but was generous with others, working at a shelter for abused women and helping neighbors with their gardens and groceries, he said.
Charla Nash talked only a little about the chimp in the past, Stephen Nash said. The animal was kept in a cage but once escaped, he recalled her saying.
"All I know is zoos have cautionary methods when they have these types of animals," Stephen Nash said. "I don't know why the rules aren't the same for private individuals."
The Cleveland Clinic released a statement saying Nash's wounds have been stabilized, but "critical issues still remain related to a significant traumatic brain injury and injuries to her eyes that threaten her vision." Neurosurgeons and ophthalmologists are working to evaluate and manage her injuries, but "the full extent of these injuries and her potential for recovery, if any, remain unclear at this time," the hospital said.
Charla Nash remains sedated in the hospital, which performed the nation's first face transplant in December. Hospital officials say it's too early to know if she will be a candidate for a face transplant.
Another brother, Michael Nash, said he hoped his sister would receive a face transplant.
Michael Nash said his sister can respond to commands such as to move her toes. He called her ordeal a "nightmare."
"My sister was so special," Michael Nash said. "She was a great mother. She was so focused with her daughter's education."
The Nash family and hospital officials said they are grateful to those across the country who have been concerned about Nash's recovery. The family has established a Web site, http://www.nashtrust.com , to accept donations to pay for her care.
"She's a fighter," Michael Nash said. "She's in the best place in the world."
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