Georgia woman, 24, who lost leg to rare flesh-eating virus begins recovery
A common bacteria triggered a horrifying illness in a young woman whose survival is being called a 'miracle'
A week after doctors had given Aimee Copeland little chance of survival, the young Georgia woman suffering from a flesh-eating disease is now alert enough to request reading materials.
Copeland, 24, is still on a respirator, but her parents have said they can read her lips and that the day they will remove her breathing tube is approaching.
But with that joyous moment comes an additional heartbreak: the medication she has been on since the necrotizing fasciitis invaded her body has blurred her memory. Copeland, a psychology graduate student, must be told about the accident that led to the loss of a leg.
Copeland received a deep gash in her left calf after a zipline accident plunged her into a freshwater river near Carrollton, Georgia, on May 1. Doctors stitched her up, but not before a common bacteria called Aeromonas hydrophila had entered her leg.
In an extremely rare turn of events the bacteria triggered the flesh-eating disease that began destroying the tissue of Copeland's leg from the inside – an agony that was not immediately diagnosed.
Once doctors figured out what was wrong with Copeland, she was rushed to Joseph M Still Burn Center in Augusta, Georgia, where doctors performed a high-hip amputation of her left leg and removed some tissue from her abdomen.
She has lost some use of her hands as well and may still lose her fingers.
Copeland's progress in the days since the accident has been eloquently charted by her father Andy on his blog, and has captured the empathy and horror of readers across the country. It is "without a doubt the most horrific situation that a parent can possibly imagine", her father wrote online.
"We take so much for granted in life, but I never imagined that one of my daughters would face this most unlikely of situations."
Still, Andy has chosen to focus on the positive: that his daughter appears likely to survive the gut-wrenching ordeal.
"The words I hear from the medical professionals to describe Aimee's continued recovery are 'astonishing', 'incredible', 'confounding', 'mind boggling' and 'unbelievable'. All those are fitting words. My favorite word is 'miracle'."
The fact that Aimee has survived, and appears to be thriving again, is about as unlikely as contracting the flesh-eating illness in the first place.
"Probably the best thing working for her is her youth. This disease has an overwhelming fatality rate," Dr Bruce Ribner of Emory University Hospital told ABC News.
Andy has taken to calling the day his daughter will be taken off the ventilator so that she can speak again "Aimee Day".
"As wonderful as that moment will be for us, it will also be the time that Aimee receives all the answers about her condition," her father writes.
With luck, because she is close to completing a Master's degree in psychology at West Georgia University, she will have acquired some tools necessary to navigate the trauma that may await.
"She will learn about the loss of her beautiful leg. She will discover that her hands lack the dexterity and tactile response she has known all her life. I think that moment will be one of horror and depression for Aimee."
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