(CNN) -- A brutal mauling by a friend's pet chimpanzee left Charla Nash without a nose, eyelids, lips or hands. Police initially couldn't determine her gender. Doctors weren't sure if she would survive.
Now, more than two years later, physicians at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston have released the first post-surgery pictures of Nash since she received a full face transplant in May.
"These professionals first saved my life, then healed my wounds and strengthened me to face an uncertain future," Nash said in a statement Thursday.
"I will now be able to do things I once took for granted ... I will have lips and will speak clearly once again. I will be able to kiss and hug loved ones. I am tremendously grateful to the donor and her family."
Doctors who performed the surgery called Nash courageous.
"She inspired the team to do everything possible, using our collective expertise, to restore her quality of life," said Plastic Surgery Transplantation Director Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, after the surgery.
In February 2009, Nash was helping a friend coax her 14-year-old pet chimp, Travis, back into the house. When Nash arrived, the chimp, who had been featured in television commercials for Coca-Cola and Old Navy, jumped on her and began biting and mauling her. Police later shot Travis to stop the attack and he died of gunshot wounds.
The unprovoked attack sparked outrage from both animal rights activists and Congress which swiftly passed a bill prohibiting the purchase and transportation of primates across state lines.
Nash remained in critical condition for months and was moved to Brigham and Women's Hospital in June 2010, where she became the third person to receive a full face transplant at the hospital. Doctors also successfully attached two new hands, but a few days later Nash became sick and the hands were removed.
Nash called the loss a "bump" in the road to her recovery.
"I was given the chance to restore most of what I lost by coming to Brigham and Women's Hospital," she said. "Here, I received a new face ... that will allow me to be independent again and able to be a part of society."
Her new face, she said, has brought her back to life.