The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Travis The Chimpanzee, Charla Nash, Daughter Speaks Out

The woman who was maimed by a pet chimpanzee last February in Connecticut feared the animal even before the attack, her daughter said Friday.

“She was afraid of him … She was afraid of his strength,” Briana Nash said Friday of her mother, Charla Nash, during her first live interview since the attack. “He could push a cinderblock like it was a feather. She just couldn’t get over the sheer strength of something like that.”

The 17-year-old girl was interviewed by TODAY’s Meredith Vieira in New York and was joined by Charla’s brothers Mike, her twin, and Steve. She talked about her life with her mom, a single mother of great strength of will who was totally devoted to her only child, and told of a tender moment she shared with her mom on Mother’s Day.

It took place in the Cleveland Clinic, the medical center where Charla was taken days after the attack that nearly took her life and left her blind and with a horribly maimed face. She also lost her fingers. The woman was kept under heavy sedation for weeks, but by early May she was able to speak and recognize her family.

Briana said she went to the hospital with her uncle. “I walked in the room. Uncle Mike said, ‘Hey, Charla, I brought your favorite person. Guess who?’ And she said, ‘Briana,’ ” Briana told Vieira, recalling the visit. “I walked up to her and rubbed her arm. It was nice to be there with her again. She asked me if I was cold and I told her no, and she asked me if I wanted to lay with her. I pulled down the arm of the bed and I leaned on her.

Mike and Steve have traded places living in Cleveland and visiting their sister daily. Briana is living with Mike, who has legal guardianship of her.

Mike told Vieira that Charla remembers the moments before the attack. But she refuses to accept that the animal is responsible for the terrible injuries she suffered. He added that on a recent visit, she got so anxious while trying to recall what happened to her that he called a staff psychiatrist at the Cleveland Clinic.

‘He didn’t attack me’
“I called the psychiatrist,” Mike said. “The psychiatrist was explaining to her she was in the hospital, she was attacked by Travis,” the chimpanzee. “She said, ‘No no, he didn’t attack me, they would shoot him.”

Charla insisted that Travis attacked Jerry, the deceased husband of the chimp’s owner, Sandra Herold. “She remembered up to the point she got out of the car and … as soon as she got out, she felt something was wrong, and then she stopped talking,” Mike said of his sister.

Charla Nash knew Travis well, and Mike confirmed that his sister feared the chimp.

“She was talking about Travis,” he said. “He’s very strong. He could get real angry.”

On the morning of the attack, Travis was highly agitated and Herold called her friend to come over to her Stamford, Conn., home to help settle him down. When Charla got out of her car, the chimp rushed her and began tearing her face off and chewing off her fingers as Herold frantically called police.

By the time police arrived, Herold was near death. When Travis broke into a police car and began attacking an officer, the policeman shot and killed the 200-pound animal.

‘Your favorite person’
Charla is a single mother with a 17-year-old daughter, Briana, who is now staying with Mike Nash. She saw her mother as soon as she was stabilized after the attack, and has visited her in Cleveland.

Mike said that Charla has just undergone another surgery to remove her sightless eyes and to implant an artificial palate in her mouth that will allow her to speak more clearly and eat more easily. She faces two years of hospitalization and will need lifetime care.

Charla’s family has told of how she was a vibrant and independent woman who did not like to accept anyone’s help. Vieira asked Briana how she deals with her mother’s current condition.

“Most of the time I don’t really think about it too much,” she said. “I try to live like I normally would.”

Charla Nash (on horseback) and her daughter Briana in happier times. Briana says her mother is “her best friend.”

Briana said she retreats into her studies in high school, where she is an honor student. Her mother was big on education and worked to allow her daughter to take overseas trips.

“School’s always been a big thing for me. It’s a very large motivation to me to keep my grades -- do her proud,” Briana said. “The thing about her is she’s kind of my best friend. We have each other. She’s been there my whole life — it’s just her and I, and that’s great. I’d come home every night and she’d cook dinner. We’d talk about our day. She’d tell me about hers at work, and if we had any problems, we talked to each other about it.”

Bills and lawsuits
Charla Nash was attacked in on Feb. 16. She has been in the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio since Feb. 19, where doctors say she’s in critical but stable condition. It is the same medical center where a gunshot victim received a face transplant and held a news conference earlier this month. Doctors won't say whether Charla Nash is a candidate for a face transplant as well.

Steve Nash, a retired school teacher from Virginia with two grown children, moved to Cleveland and stayed at his sister’s side for the first two months of her hospitalization. Michael has legal guardianship of Briana, and recently traded places with his brother as the family continues its vigil.

The medical bills for Charla’s care will be astronomical, and the brothers said they are working with Medicare and officials in Ohio and Connecticut to attempt to arrange some sort of coverage.

Image: Chimpanzee who was killed by police after he attacked a woman.
Kathleen O'rourke / The Stamford Advocate viaAP file
Travis, 15, was shot dead by police after the Feb. 16 attack.

The brothers have recently filed a $50 million lawsuit against Herold and are contemplating suing the state of Connecticut and the city of Stamford as well for allowing her to keep the chimp, and for ignoring warnings that the animal was an accident waiting to happen.

The suit against Herold alleges that she gave Travis Xanax, and the drug upset him. Connecticut officials say a necropsy did find Xanax in the chimp’s blood, but were unable to say whether it was the reason the animal snapped.

Travis had appeared in commercials for Old Navy and Coke and made other TV appearances when he was younger and was a celebrity in Stamford. He was toilet-trained, drank wine from a long-stemmed glass, dined on lobster and filet mignon, surfed the Internet looking at pictures and reportedly even slept with Herold.

Travis reportedly bit an animal control officer a number of years ago. In 2003, he jumped out of Herold’s car and stopped traffic in downtown Stamford for two hours as police tried to corral him, but the incident was judged to be mischievous and not malicious. Herold has told NBC News there was never any indication that Travis would so viciously attack anyone.

Vieira talked about how independent Charla Nash was and asked Briana what she wishes for her mother as she recovers.

“I would like her to be as independent as she possible can. That’s always been the great thing for her — she never relied on anyone,” the girl said while acknowledging that her mother will need round-the-clock help when she gets out of the hospital. Still, she said, she hopes her mom can, “just go outside in the yard, do things that make her happy.”

For information on how you can help Charla Nash and send her your messages of hope, visit The Charla Nash Trust Web site or The Friends of Charla Nash or call 1-866-228-5970.


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