From The Roots-Clinician's Blog


Without A Hand to Hold

Quality of life is something we take pretty seriously as therapists. We talk a lot on this blog about the rights of disabled individuals to have access to mobility devices that will raise quality of life. But the fact is quality of life is not mobility-specific. What about hands, and hand function? What is the value of a pair of hands?

Briana Nash feeds her mother, Charla, who lost her hands in a chimpanzee attack

Briana Nash feeds her mother, Charla, who lost her hands in a chimpanzee attack

This entered my mind because Charla Nash is back in the news. Nash was the Connecticut woman whose face and hands were ripped off in the course of a chimpanzee attack in 2009. Her face transplant is thus far a success, but her double hand transplant failed. She recently made an argument before the Connecticut General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee to allow her to sue the state for $150 million in damages.

Is a pair of hands worth $150 million? Would I part with my own two hands for $150 million?

Public comments about Nash’s appeal to the state legislature have drawn thousands of comments in online news articles. Some say she is greedy. Nash was awarded a $4 million settlement from her lawsuit against the animal’s owner, which drew one person to declare such an amount was “quite enough to live comfortably, even with her disabilities.” Nash is only 60 years old and lives in a Boston-area convalescent home. Whoever made that comment clearly has no idea about the expense of nursing care.

I am not here to judge. I advocate for individuals who are disabled: to get the attention of policy makers who can respond productively to the needs of the disabled. Charla Nash is most certainly disabled, so as grassroots practitioners we may want to consider how we might advocate for someone in her position. Lay aside the headlines and acrimony and consider how, as a therapist, you could best help Charla Nash cope as she is, with what she has.