Entries in Flesh-Eating Bacteria (23)


Firefighter Loses Leg to Bacteria, Vows to Get Back to Work

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Ralphie Lettieri lost a leg to flesh eating bacteria, but he hasn’t lost his positive attitude.

“I feel like I’m a  miracle” Lettieri, 26, told ABC News’ New York affiliate WABC.

Lettieri likely contracted the virus when he took a swim in a pond after getting poison ivy. The flesh eating bacteria present in the pond was able to enter his body through the open sores caused by the poison ivy. Once there it proceeded to wreak havoc, causing his organs to shut down and putting him in a coma within days.

Dr. Louis Riina told WABC Lettieri was “as close to death as any man could be” when surgeons at Nassau University Medical Center made the difficult decision to amputate his left leg.

Now, nearly two months later, Ralphie Lettieri is finally ready to return home to his fiance and 3-year-old son. And although Lettieri still has months of physical therapy ahead of him, he hopes that once he gets a new leg, he’ll be able to resume his duties as a volunteer firefighter at the East Patchogue fire department, where he is a lieutenant.

“With all the technology and the prosthetics I can do just what I did before. I can be like anybody else”

To help Ralphie Lettieri with his medical costs you can make a donation:

The Help Ralphie Fund
c/o A. Citarella, Chief
510 Oakdale Avenue
East Patchogue, NY 11772

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Texas Woman to Receive Nation’s First Double Arm Transplant

Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Surgeons at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston will perform the nation’s first double arm transplant on a Texas woman, the hospital announced Wednesday.

Katy Hayes, 44, a quadruple amputee and mother of three from Kingwood, Texas, has been approved for the transplant after undergoing rigorous evaluation.

In 2010, Hayes, a former massage therapist, developed a flesh-eating bacterial infection after giving birth to her third child. To keep her alive, doctors had to amputate her arms above the elbow, her legs above her knees, her uterus and her large intestines.

“I never thought about how much a gift your hands are,” Hayes said at a news conference Wednesday. “I have to be baby-sat, which is ridiculous.”

More than 48 patients worldwide have received hand and arm transplants. In 2009, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center performed the nation’s first bilateral hand transplant.

An above-the-elbow arm transplant similar to Hayes’ proposed procedure has previously been performed in Munich, Germany, by Dr. Christoph Hoehnke.

The procedure will involve a team of 40 medical experts, doctors said at the news conference.

The transplant will connect skin, muscle, bones and blood vessels on both arms. While the surgery will repair the appearance of her arms, doctors are not sure whether full function of the arms will be restored.

Unlike internal organ transplants, hand and arm transplants not only depend on connecting the blood supply, but also on nerve regrowth for the arm to function normally, according to Dr. Vijay Gorantla, administrative medical director of the Pittsburgh Reconstructive Transplant Program at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Nerves regrow about one millimeter a day, said Gorantla, who is not involved in Hayes’ transplant, but was on the earlier double-hand transplant team.

“The recipient nerves have to regrow in the donor shell,” said Gorantla, adding it could take years, if it happens at all. “At this point, there’s no technology to expedite that growth.”

“Theoretically, there’s a risk that these patients may not be functional or as functional as a distal hand transplant,” he said.

Research on hand and arm transplants has grown since the first transplant. Transplant patients often take multiple high-dose medications to prevent tissue rejection. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine are researching ways to cut the number of high-dose drugs taken.

In a current study, Johns Hopkins researchers are treating patients with antibodies on the day of the transplant, followed by a bone marrow infusion after the transplant. Patients are then able to be treated with a single, lower-dose medication.

Doctors did not clarify Hayes’ post-transplant recovery plans, but said the process to recovery will be a long one.

“I want my life back,” said Hayes. “I want to hold my children. I want to hug my husband.”

Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, director of plastic surgery transplantation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the same pioneering surgeon who performed total face transplants to patients including Dallas Weins and Charla Nash, will be among Hayes’ surgical team.

Brigham and Women’s is working with the New England Organ Bank, a New England-based organ procurement organization, to find Hayes a donor.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

ABC News Radio