I don’t know this story, but it’s on my TBR list now. A couple of things I did think about as I listened:
Hospitals are almost uniquely objectifying, and objectification is a big part of the story. Once you are admitted, you give up almost total control of your life, and may be poked, prodded, made to take drugs… Even the sympathetic Dr doesn’t really talk with her, but rather talks about the quality of the work done on her. Also of note, even assuming that the animal heads were the result of the nerve being reconnected, that was a surgery that was done without informed consent and without thought for what it might do to her vision.
I found the discussion about apes a bit frustrating, to be honest. That an ape is closer to human could cause an uncanny valley effect, so being closer to human does not necessarily equate to being comforting. However, we have to take into account that gorillas, not apes but specifically gorillas, have been coded as sexually threatening to women since the 19th century – King Kong did not come out of nowhere. Consider Frémiet’s notorious sculpture Gorille enlevant une femme (Gorilla carrying off a woman). About this sculpture, Charles Baudelaire wrote “Why are we not given a crocodile, a tiger, or any other wild animal that might eat a woman? Because this is not about eating, but rape! It is the ape alone, this gigantic ape at once so much more and less than a man, which has at times shown a human appetite for women…”
So, while there is definitely racial coding around gorillas, I don’t think that she chose to get away from an animal which has been specifically coded as sexually threatening to women is all that hard to understand.
FWIW: If you do an image search for “Frémiet gorilla” you will also get other period depictions of the same thing.