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Entries in Aimee Copeland (15)

Tuesday
Sep112012

Flesh-Eating Disease Survivor Aimee Copeland Loves Life 'Even More Now'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Aimee Copeland, the young woman who lost her hands, both feet and her entire right leg to flesh-eating bacteria last spring, made her public debut Tuesday by walking -- painstakingly -- onto the set of Katie Couric's new show, where she was received with a standing ovation.

Copeland beamed as she struggled slowly towards Couric with the aid of a prosthetic foot and a new walker, pushing the walker forward and then hopping a step, bringing Couric near tears.

Despite her ordeal, Copeland quickly rejected a question from Couric, who asked whether she ever felt like just dying.

"I love life. It's a beautiful thing ... even more so now," she replied.

"Senses are so deepened," she said. "Everything smells better. Everything is more vibrant, more beautiful."

Copeland, 24, cut open her right leg falling from a zip line near the Tallapoosa River nearly four months ago, allowing a deadly bacterium to enter her body. She said she sensed something wasn't quite right days after receiving 22 stitches to close the wound on her calf because it hurt up to her thigh.

The bacteria advanced undetected until "my entire leg was a dark purple color," Copeland said. "I wasn't able to walk. I wasn't able to speak. The only thing I was able to babble was, 'I think I'm dying.'"

After being in and out of the emergency room with the painful wound that wouldn't heal, doctors realized she had necrotizing fasciitis and amputated her leg from the hip.

Later, when her hands turned black, doctors amputated them too.

"I think the most extreme moment was when my dad lifted up my hands for me to see, and my fingers were black and my hands were a deep, blood red," she said. "I said, 'Let's do this.' I mean, what else are you going to do? Live with some dead hands?"

Copeland, however, was bubbly as she talked about her future, her boyfriend and her upcoming thesis on wilderness therapy for amputees, waving what she refers to as her "nubs" as she spoke enthusiastically.

Copeland returned to her Snellville, Ga., home a few weeks ago after a grueling 51-day rehabilitation program at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. She told Couric she can do 300 sit-ups at a time now.

She said she doesn't like to be called "disabled," and that she plans to use her "nubs" instead of adaptive equipment because she's learned to do so much with what she has left. During the show, Couric showed a video of Copeland texting with her nose and brushing her teeth with the brush wrapped to her arm.

She would rather not use hooks or leg prosthetics when she's able to drive again in a few weeks, Copeland said, adding that prosthetics on pedals are akin to trying to drive a car in a "giant pair of heels."

One of her biggest pleasures she said was standing up after being bedridden for so long.

"You take it for granted just to look people in the eyes," she said. She said that her boyfriend cried the first time he saw her stand and said, "I've missed you up here."

She said what she has eclipses what she lost last spring.

"There's a lot I don't have that other people have, but there's a lot I have that other people don't have," she told Couric.

Copeland's family joined her on the stage later in the show to talk about her strength and positive attitude.

Copeland, who is getting her master's degree in psychology, said many think they can't kayak or hike, but that's not the case, and she wants to show them.

"I want to spread that knowledge to other amputees and help people get back in the woods, get back in the wilderness, into that place that can be so healing," she said.

Although Couric said she tells people her show is not about giving away cars, she said she would make an exception.

Copeland mouthed "oh my gosh" as Couric explained that Chevrolet dealer Steve Rayman, whose father-in-law recently became an amputee, gave Copeland a retrofitted van complete with a ribbon on top. The dealer said he just wanted Copeland to be a normal "24-year-old kid," adding, "she's going to be incredible."

"But she's not going to speed," Couric chimed in.

"Never," Copeland said, laughing.

 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug232012

Flesh Eating Disease Survivor Aimee Copeland Goes Home

ABC News(ATLANTA) -- Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old who lost both hands, her left leg and her right foot when she contracted a flesh-eating bacteria in April, slept in her own bed last night for the first time in months.

After spending 51 days at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for rehabilitation, Copeland was discharged Wednesday, a spokesman for the center told ABC News.

"She was a delightful and very strong young lady, and she worked very hard while she was here," said Larry Bowie, a spokesman for the center. "We wish her all the best, and we know she's going to go on to do very great things."

Bowie said Copeland made a lot of friends at the Shepherd Center. He said patients always get graduation ceremonies before they are discharged, and called Copeland's "wonderful" and "very emotional" for everyone.

"She's looking forward to the next chapter," he said.

Copeland cut open her leg falling from a zip line near the Tallapoosa River nearly four months ago, allowing a deadly bacterium to enter her body. After being in and out of the emergency room with a painful wound that wouldn't heal, doctors realized she had necrotizing fasciitis and amputated her leg from the hip.

Copeland's recovery was touch and go. When she lost her pulse, doctors had to resuscitate her with CPR. Fearing the bacteria would spread to her blood, doctors amputated Copeland's hands and her remaining foot.

She was released from the hospital in early July, and went to the Shepherd Center. Copeland's father, Andy, blogged about the grueling workout routine designed to help her maneuver in and out of her wheelchair.

"During each of her physical therapy sessions, Aimee does two hundred crunches in seven minutes. Every ten crunches, Aimee is required to say a complete sentence with each repetition," Andy wrote on the blog last month. "How many of you can do two hundred crunches in seven minutes?"

Proud of his daughter, he said in another post that it was like she was training for the Olympics.

Copeland's Snellville home was renovated to include a 2,000-square-foot wing just for her; it includes a workout room and an elevator. The project cost about $200,000 to complete and took 25 days.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul302012

Aimee Copeland’s Rehab Workout: 200 Crunches, 400 Leg Lifts

ABC News(ATLANTA) -- Aimee Copeland is getting stronger, one crunch at a time.

Copeland is the 24-year-old Georgia graduate student whose body was ravaged by a flesh-eating bacteria she contracted in early May. The bacteria has taken her left leg, right foot and both of her hands.

According to a blog post by her father, Andy Copeland, Aimee is attacking her rehab routine with a vengeance.

“During each of her physical therapy sessions, Aimee does two hundred crunches in seven minutes,” Andy Copeland writes. “Aimee also has to do four hundred leg lifts in seven minutes, an untold number of pushups and something else that she calls ‘planks’ and ‘sideplanks.’”

Andy Copeland said the purpose of the grueling exercise regimen is for Aimee to strengthen her body enough to enable her to use a wheelchair and, eventually, prosthetics.

Nearly three months have passed since Copeland, of Snellville, Ga., suffered the cut on her leg in a fall from a homemade zip line near the Little Tallapoosa River that led to the infection.

Infection with flesh-eating bacteria is quite rare, but more often than not it is deadly. Mortality rates for the type of bacterial infection that Aimee Copeland contracted are higher than 60 percent, according to a 2010 report published in the journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews.

Since leaving the hospital earlier this month, Copeland has been continuing her recovery at a rehabilitation facility. Her parents chose not to reveal the location of the facility for privacy reasons, but it is thought to be close to her home.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul062012

Michigan Woman Has Flesh-Eating Bacteria Aimee Copeland Survived

WXYZ-TV/ABC News(DETROIT) -- A Detroit-area woman is fighting for her life against the same, rare flesh-eating disease that nearly killed Georgia graduate student Aimee Copeland.

Crystal Spencer, 33, is in serious condition at Detroit Receiving Hospital after she was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, which is more commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria syndrome.  The quickly progressing infection is known for its sudden onset and the speed with which it spreads across layers of skin and subcutaneous tissues.

Spencer's husband, Jeff, told ABC News affiliate WXYZ-TV that his wife, who had been hospitalized since June 30, has already had a part of her midsection removed, which he says amounts to the size of a small watermelon.

"They only give her a 20 to 30 percent chance to pull out of this, not even to make this," Jeff Spencer said.  "The surgeon keeps going in and cleaning it and cleaning it.  But they're saying it could go either way."

Crystal Spencer entered the hospital days before Copeland was released from a hospital more than 700 miles away after she fought an uphill battle against the same infection.

After 49 days, Copeland on Monday left an Atlanta-area hospital, where she had her left leg, right foot and both hands amputated in order to save her life.

The 24-year-old contracted the virus from hydrophila bacteria, which is typically found in warm waters, when she fell from a broken zipline along the Tallapoosa River near the south end of the Appalachian Mountains in Georgia on May 1.

Jeff Spencer told WXYZ that he believes his wife contracted the infection while she was at a different Detroit hospital, where she recently had surgery to remove an abscess from her leg.  Crystal Spencer suffers from type 2 diabetes.

"They're saying it's a long road but I'm trying to think for the better that hopefully she does make it," he said.  "She's alert but she's not to the point where she can talk or really do much."

"It's just hard at night to do this," he added.  "I'm keeping my hopes up, I'm praying and have family do what they can."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul062012

Aimee Copeland Helped Design Home Addition

ABC News(SNELLVILLE, Ga.) -- Aimee Copeland, the Georgia student who lost her left leg, right foot and hands to a flesh-eating disease, helped design the addition to her childhood home known as "Aimee's wing."

Copeland, 24, is living at an inpatient rehabilitation center, where she will learn to use an electrical wheelchair and, eventually, prosthetic limbs.  But in as few as six weeks, she will move into the two-story wing carefully crafted to aid her recovery.

"She designed it with my help," said architect Rob Ponder, a family friend who volunteered his services.  "She was the one saying, 'This is where I want my bedroom; this is where I want my study.'"

The wing off the back of the Copeland home in Snellville, Ga., will also house a fitness room, a sunroom and an elevator.

"Six years from now, when all the excitement has died down, she's going to be living in this house," Ponder said.  "We want it to be functional, durable, and exactly the way she wants."

Ponder visited Copeland twice at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, where the young woman spent 59 days recovering from a deadly infection after a zipline injury.  And despite the lingering pain of amputations and skin grafts, Copeland was excited to weigh in on her new wing.

"She told me all the things she wanted," Ponder said, describing the fitness room where Copeland can build her strength and the quiet study where she can finish her master's thesis.  "Ultimately, we're trying to give her as much independence as we can as early as possible."

Ponder said Copeland's father, Andy Copeland, reached out to him for help with the design.

"He had a bunch of ideas about where things should go," Ponder said.  "But I said, 'Wait a minute.  Is that what Aimee wants?  She's 24, and might not want her bedroom right next to the kitchen."

Ponder said Aimee Copeland was glad to have a say in the design of her new digs.

"She was happy, and so excited about getting to the next step," Ponder said, recalling Copeland's three-word response to the news she would lose her hands: "Let's do this".  "She's the same about her house."

Volunteer workers have already demolished a deck to make room for the wing.  And with permits finally in hand, the work is set to start on Monday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul022012

Aimee Copeland Leaves Hospital After Battling Flesh-Eating Disease

Tom Adkins/Capital City EMS(ATLANTA) -- Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old Georgia grad student who lost her left leg, right foot and hands to flesh-eating disease, has left the Augusta hospital that saved her life.

It's been two months since Copeland cut open her calf in a fall from a homemade zip line near the Little Tallapoosa River, inviting the deadly infection that landed her in critical condition.

Copeland is en route to a private rehabilitation facility, where she will learn to use a wheelchair and, eventually, prosthetic limbs. Her family, who lives in Snellville, Ga., has decided to keep the location of the facility private.

The next phase will involve months of intense rehab, according to Dr. Alberto Esquenazi, chief medical officer of MossRehab in Philadelphia.

"The first step is to provide patients with self independence," said Esquenazi, who is also the chairman of physical medicine and rehabilitation at MossRehab Regional Amputee Center. "Right now, someone has to feed her, help her with hygiene, turn on lights, open doors. ... But some simple devices can help her do these things herself."

Copeland will learn to use a wheelchair until her body is strong enough to tolerate prosthetics.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun262012

Flesh-Eating Disease Victim Aimee Copeland Goes Outside for First Time

ABC News(AUGUSTA, Ga.) -- Aimee Copeland, the Georgia student recovering from a flesh-eating disease, went outside for the first time in 49 days, her father wrote on his blog Monday.  

After several surgeries to remove her limbs, the 24-year-old's condition was upgraded from "serious" to "good."

For a patient's status to change from serious to good, vital signs must be stable and within normal limits.  The patient is conscious and comfortable, and indicators are excellent, the hospital reported.

Copeland, who had been working on a thesis about nature therapy, was wheeled outside of Doctors Hospital in Augusta on Saturday, where her parents snapped a photo of her.

"Aimee has a beauty in this photograph that I think goes beyond words," said Andy Copeland, her father.  "It's a beauty of survival, of resilience."

Copeland has been keeping a blog about his daughter's fight, and says the sun has returned to her life.

"The look on Aimee's face was just incredible," said Copeland.  "She could smell the pine trees and feel the breeze through her hair and just the sun on her skin.  That was a remarkable change for her just to see how she glowed when we took her outside."

Copeland's father tells ABC News that she might be able to leave the hospital in a week, but she still has much recovery ahead of her.  It will not be the life she imagined, he says, but he is in awe of her sunny outlook.

"She said she likes that fact that she has a challenge and she feels the challenge will create a tremendous opportunity not just for her to learn more and to gain more from this, but to learn more that she can use to help others along the way," says Copeland.

Aimee Copeland cut open her calf in a fall from a homemade zipline near the Little Tallapoosa River on May 1.  The wound became infected by a common bacteria that spread in her body and claimed her left leg, right foot and hands.  Doctors also removed part of her torso.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun252012

Aimee Copeland's Condition Upgraded to 'Good'

ABC News(AUGUSTA, Ga.) -- Aimee Copeland, the Georgia student recovering from a flesh-eating disease, went outside for the first time in 49 days, her father wrote on his blog today. Doctors Hospital in Augusta, where the 24-year-old has undergone treatment, also upgraded her condition from "serious" to "good," despite her missing limbs.

For a patient's status to change from serious to good, vital signs must be stable and within normal limits. The patient is conscious and comfortable and indicators are excellent, the hospital reported.

"The smile on Aimee's face said that this was the best therapy that she has had in weeks," Andy Copeland wrote in a blog post. "Not one thought of the pain in her abdomen, not the slightest concern over her time away from the ICU. Fresh scenery and close proximity to nature was all she needed."

Her father noted that nature therapy is the basis of Copeland's master's thesis.

"I don't focus on what I've lost, I would rather focus on what I've gained I feel like I've been blessed," she reportedly said to her dad while outside. "I mean that I am blessed to have the opportunity to experience something that not many other people have the chance to experience.

"I am blessed to be able to have a challenge that not many others get to have," she continued. "I am blessed to have the capacity to share my experience with others and have a chance to improve the quality of someone else's life. I'm blessed to be different."

It has been nearly two months since Copeland cut open her calf in a fall from a homemade zipline near the Little Tallapoosa River. Copeland's future will focus on rehabilitation and learning to live with prosthetics. But even in her "greatest moment of weakness," her father wrote, "she will always be stronger than I can ever hope to be.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun182012

Aimee Copeland Pleads for Painkillers, Feels Like 'Patchwork Quilt'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Aimee Copeland, the Georgia student recovering from flesh-eating disease, is pleading for painkillers after surgery to replace swaths of bacteria-ravaged skin and muscle, her father said.

Copeland, 24, was hesitant to take morphine, telling her father she felt like "a traitor to her convictions."  But her preferred method of pain management, meditation, proved no match for the sting of skin grafts and muscle flaps to close a gaping wound on her abdomen and groin.

"Aimee is now taking pain medication in as liberal a dose as can be prescribed," Copeland's father, Andy Copeland, wrote in a blog post.  "If she even dared to refuse taking it, which she wouldn't, then the doctors would most certainly administer it in an IV drip."

It's been nearly seven weeks since Copeland cut open her calf in a fall from a homemade zip line near the Little Tallapoosa River, inviting a flesh-eating infection that claimed her left leg, right foot and hands.  Doctors also removed part of her torso, leaving a wound that was dutifully cleaned and covered with sterile bandages in advance of reconstructive surgery on Friday.

"During the most recent skin graft, her surgeons were forced to take muscle from Aimee's abdomen to create a flap over the iliac artery in her groin," Andy Copeland wrote.  "She says that she feels like a patchwork quilt, because her body is a collection of skin grafts and bandages."

A skin graft transplants a thin patch of skin surgically shaved from elsewhere on the body onto a wound.

"We can get sheets between 10 and 12 thousandths of an inch thick," said Dr. J. Blair Summitt, assistant professor of plastic surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.  "Within two or three days, tiny little blood vessels start to grow into the graft.  It's a fairly straightforward procedure."

Straightforward, but not painless.  Summitt said narcotic painkillers like morphine and Fentanyl help patients power through the painful reconstructive surgery.  But Andy Copeland said no drug is powerful enough to relieve his daughter's pain.

"The allowable doses of Morphine, Fentanyl and Lyrica are often inadequate to deal with the pain that Aimee is now experiencing," he wrote.  "Please believe me when I say that Aimee's refusal to use pain medication has ceased following her most recent surgery.  She is now requesting it ahead of schedule."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun152012

Aimee Copeland Faces Skin Grafts, Powers Through Pain

ABC News(ATLANTA) -- Aimee Copeland, the Georgia student recovering from flesh-eating disease, is having surgery to replace swaths of bacteria-ravaged skin, her father said.

It has been six weeks since Copeland, 24, cut open her calf in a fall from a homemade zipline near the Little Tallapoosa River, inviting a deadly infection that claimed her left leg, right foot and hands. Doctors also removed skin covering her abdomen and hip, leaving a gaping wound that has been dutifully covered with sterile bandages in advance of a skin graft Friday.

"The area of her wound, which I saw for the first time on Sunday during a dressing change, is massive," Copeland's father, Andy Copeland, wrote in a blog post.

But the sprawling wound looked clean and red, Andy Copeland said, meaning tiny blood vessels had made their way up to the surface, ready to feed a transplanted layer of skin.

"You have to have a wound bed that's healthy and well vascularized," said Dr. J. Blair Summitt, assistant professor of plastic surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., describing the "beefy-looking" tissue that helps seal a skin graft to a wound. "If the wound's infected, the graft won't take."

A skin graft is a thin patch of skin surgically shaved from elsewhere on the body and transplanted onto a clean, blood vessel-laden wound bed. It replaces skin lost to burns, cancer and infections, according to Summitt, who has treated at least three people with flesh-eating disease in the past nine months.

"We can get sheets between 10 and 12 thousandths of an inch thick," he said, explaining how healthy skin quickly heals from the superficial slice as the transplanted patch sets up shop in its new home. "Within two or three days, tiny little blood vessels start to grow into the graft. It's a fairly straightforward procedure."

But not all skin grafts "take," as Summitt put it. Lingering infection and insufficient blood supply can prevent transplanted skin from thriving in its new home.

"It might release from the wound bed," Summitt said, describing a failed graft as a floppy piece of pale skin. "You would have to remove the skin graft that was not accepted."

And even if the graft takes, it can cause disfiguring and disabling scars that could call for more surgery down the road.

"As it heals, the graft can cause contractures," Summitt said, describing the skin shortening that can have functional, not to mention aesthetic consequences. "But you can always revise that later on."

Andy Copeland acknowledged that his daughter's skin graft Friday could be one of many.

"Aimee's wound repair is a life-long process that will require ongoing attention and medical care," he wrote. "However, the surgery today will bring her one step closer to her biggest challenge yet: rehab."

Once her wound has healed, Copeland will start learning to live with prosthetics.

"This important step in Aimee's recovery process will take months to complete," Andy Copeland wrote. "But I have no doubt that she will give it the same focused effort and determination that she gave to attain an A-average throughout her master's program -- the same effort that, thanks to God's help, has allowed her to recover to her current condition."

Copeland's determination has also helped her through painful wound dressing changes, during which she opts for meditation over morphine.

"Although that drug effectively blocks most of the pain associated with her condition, it makes her groggy and confused and it gives her unpleasant hallucinatory episodes," Andy Copeland wrote. "Part of her master's thesis is focused on holistic pain management techniques and Aimee told me that she feels she is a traitor to her convictions when she uses pharmacological pain management. ... I know the pain was significant, but Aimee's courage is greater."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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