Entries in Georgia (5)


Georgia Woman Who Lost Limbs to Flesh-Eating Disease Can Now Sit Up

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- For the first time since a rare flesh-eating infection took over her body and resulted in her hands and feet being amputated, Georgia student Aimee Copeland is breathing on her own and able to sit up for hours at a time, her father said.

Being able to sit up was "a big victory because it's something that wasn't anticipated, the doctors didn't order it.  She requested it," Andy Copeland told ABC's Good Morning America in an interview Thursday night.  "In my mind, it says a lot about the strength of her spirit.  I think she's one step back to being her normal self."

The 24-year-old remains in intensive care at an Augusta hospital, still battling the effects of the May 1 zip-line accident that slashed open her calf.  A common water-borne bacterium infected the wound.

Copeland lost the injured leg.  Doctors removed her hands to prevent the spread of infection to her blood, her father has said.

Singer-songwriter Corey Durkin had been following Andy Copeland's Facebook posts, and he visited Aimee Copeland in the hospital on Tuesday.  Durkin, who wrote a song for Aimee Copeland in which he called her "a Southern belle who fell down a wishing well," sat by her hospital bed and sang his songs.

She smiled, and mouthed words of thanks to the singer.

"She said she thanked him from the bottom of her heart and she really, really appreciated it, and I told her, 'Aimee, I'm going to give Corey something for you and I gave him a big hug and she smiled and said 'that really made her day,'" her father added.

Copeland said his daughter has shown remarkable fortitude and determination in the face of her devastating situation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Georgia Student with Flesh-Eating Disease Shows Signs of Recovery

WSB/ABC News(AUGUSTA, Ga.) -- Aimee Copeland, the Georgia student battling flesh-eating disease after a zip line injury, is showing signs of recovery, her family said on Thursday.  But the 24-year-old is still fighting for her life, relying on a ventilator to breathe.

"Her condition is still critical," Copeland's father, Andy Copeland, told reporters at a press conference in Augusta, Ga.  "If they were to unhook the ventilator, I don't know that she could breathe on her own."

Aimee Copeland was riding a homemade zip line near the Little Tallapoosa River on May 1 when the line snapped, causing a gash in her left calf.  Bacteria that burrowed deep into the wound caused necrotizing fasciitis, a rare but deadly infection that on Friday forced doctors to amputate her leg.

"It's a miracle she made it past Friday night," Andy Copeland told ABC News affiliate WSBTV.

Aimee may also lose her hands and her right foot, her father said.

"I couldn't conceive of what it would be like for my daughter to lose her hands and the only other foot she has, as well, and that appears to be what is going to happen," he told WSBTV.  "The most important thing is my daughter is still alive."

Although she's still on a ventilator, Aimee is alert and able to nod and shake her head, according to a Facebook page dedicated to her recovery.

"Seeing Aimee this morning was so refreshing," wrote her sister, Paige.  "My hope for her recovery is stronger than ever!"

The bacteria thought to have triggered the infection, Aeromonas hydrophila, thrives in warm climates and fresh water, like the river where Aimee was kayaking and zip lining with friends.  But experts say it rarely causes flesh-eating disease.

"This bacteria is a common cause of diarrheal illness," said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., and president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.  "For it to cause a deep wound infection that dissolves tissue, that's not common."

Although the infection is rare, it's extremely dangerous.  Mortality rates for Aeromonas-related necrotizing fasciitis are upward of 60 percent, according to a 2010 report published in the journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews.  The sooner the infection is diagnosed and treated, the better the prognosis.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Georgia Family Happy to Be 'The Real Life Seven Dwarfs'

Christopher Robbins/Thinkstock(BARNESVILLE, Ga.) -- The Johnston family from Barnesville, Ga., is extreme in many ways. Standing no more than four feet tall, they call themselves "the real life seven dwarfs." They are the largest family of achondroplasia dwarfs, with a type of dwarfism that affects the extremities.

When it comes to parenting, Amber and Trent Johnston go to extremes to keep things extremely normal. They do not modify any of their furniture to accommodate their size. Most parents try to make the world easier for their children. Not the Johnstons; as Amber Johnston told 20/20's Barbara Walters, "we strive to raise our children in the world that's not built for them."

The Johnstons teach their kids to adapt to their environment and use their resources, some of which are a little unconventional. At the grocery store, Amber sometimes lifts a child to reach an item on the top shelf. At home, step stools help them reach sinks and cabinets, and sticks attached to light switches help them turn lights on and off.

Trent Johnston came from a family of dwarfs. His wife's experience was the opposite—her parents and siblings are average size. "I always knew that I was different," she said, "and I was little, but I chose to be positive."

Amber first met other dwarfs as a teen, when she started attending little people's conventions. It was at one such event that she met Trent. After three and a half years of dating, they married. Five months later, Amber was pregnant with their first child.

The Johnstons didn't know if the child would be like them or average size—both were possible. At 31 weeks, they learned the child, a son, would also have achondroplasia dwarfism. They were very happy; they wanted kids who were "like them," they said.

Two years later, Amber Johnston gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth. It was a grueling, dangerous pregnancy. Amber's hips routinely became dislocated, and at one point Amber, who is 48 inches tall, measured 51 inches around.

The Johnstons dreamed of having a big family, but they knew Amber's body could not tolerate another pregnancy, so they turned to adoption. They wanted a family of people like them, and they knew that dwarfs were often put up for adoption. They also were aware of the terrible treatment dwarfs sometimes received abroad, being deprived of education and other opportunities.

They adopted Ana from Siberia, Alex from South Korea, and, in 2010, Emma from China. Those who know them have joked that they are the "Brad and Angelina of little people"—not only because of their international adoptions, but also because of how much they embrace each child's heritage.

In addition to advocating for little people, the Johnstons are big advocates for adoption. They are quick to point out that they did three overseas adoptions without taking out any loans. They relied on various grants to make it work financially.

One sizable obstacle they face is the stares they get. Jonah, the eldest son, said, "It's frustrating more than sad. I don't think they would want us to stare at them."

When Elizabeth was in third grade, bullies called her a midget. Her answer? "That's how God made me—that's how he loves me."

Supported by faith and family, the Johnstons have realized their dream and are making it work. When asked what they most want people to know about them, Jonah said, "We're no different than other people. It's just our height difference."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Stop Sugarcoating' Child Obesity Ads in Georgia Draw Controversy

Courtesy Children's Healthcare of Atlanta(ATLANTA) -- "Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid," read graphics of a TV ad in which a young girl tells of how she doesn't like going to school because she's bullied over her weight. It is part of a video and print campaign to combat childhood obesity in Georgia, which has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the nation.

But could the ads end up stigmatizing overweight kids instead of solving the problem?

"Blaming the victim rarely helps," said Dr. Miriam Labbok, director of the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "These children know they are fat and that they are ostracized already."

Some public health experts fear Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Strong4Life campaign is too blunt to cultivate action. Still, the group is standing by its decision to feature the ads to raise awareness about childhood obesity.

"We needed something that was more arresting and in your face than some of the flowery campaigns out there," said Linda Matzigkeit, senior vice president of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

An estimated one million children in Georgia are considered overweight, ranking the state second in the nation for childhood obesity.

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta chose the straightforward approach after its survey of two towns in Georgia found that 50 percent of parents did not know childhood obesity was a problem, and 75 percent of parents with obese children did not think their child was overweight.

"If we do not wake up, this will be disastrous for our state," said Matzigkeit.

She said the health system often sees children come in with adult health issues like heart disease and joint pain that can be attributed to their weight.

"We are hearing parents say that it's time we do something about it," she said.

But certain variations of the ads may not be doing much to fix the problem, some experts argued. They pointed to one print ad, in particular, that says, "It's hard to be a little girl if you're not."

"While guilt and fear are motivators, they have to be meted out with the answer to the situation," Labbok said. "The ads with the children do not offer help to them."

According to health communication experts, successful public health campaigns offer a clear call to action.  Labbok says the Georgia ads address the problem, but don't give viewers a clear solution.

"There is no mention about what a parent can do other than to say 'stop sugarcoating the problem,'" said Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, professor of pediatrics at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Georgia McDonald's Toxic Fumes a Deadly Mystery

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(SAVANNAH, Ga.) -- The mysterious fumes that killed one person and sickened nine others inside a McDonald's restroom this week may have brought the most unwanted publicity to the city of Pooler, Ga., since Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman set up Union headquarters there before negotiating the peaceful surrender of Savannah in December 1864.

Local fire officials remained stumped Friday about what toxic chemical or chemical mixture knocked two women unconscious Wednesday at the fast-food restaurant in their east Georgia city of about 19,000. One of the women, Anne Felton, 80, of Ponte Vedra, Fla., died after going into cardiac arrest. Firefighters administered oxygen to Carol Barry, 56, of Jacksonville, Fla., before she was admitted to a Savannah hospital, Pooler Fire Chief G. Wade Simmons said.

"Every one of the 10 people that had some sort of symptoms ... had been or were in that restroom," Simmons said.

No one anywhere else in the restaurant was affected.

He was hoping that results of an autopsy conducted at Georgia's state crime lab in Savannah "will lead us in some direction."

Among other confounding aspects of the case, he said, was how quickly the gas disappeared. "It was there, and then it was gone in the next hour to hour and a half we were doing things at the scene," he said.

By the time a Savannah hazardous materials analyzed air samples from the restroom, they found nothing detectable.

That left law enforcement officials and toxicologists to speculate about what the victims might have inhaled, and how it ended up in the women's room. "We've heard everything from terrorist attacks to carbon monoxide to sewer gas to God knows else," Simmons said.

Much of the speculation centered on the possibility that the women were sickened by a noxious combination of cleaning chemicals. Labels on toilet bowl cleaners, drain openers, window and glass sprays and scouring powders usually caution against using more than one product at a time.

Simmons said that based on employees' routines at the Pooler McDonald's, workers would have cleaned the women's room early in the day, before serving up Egg McMuffins to the morning breakfast crowd. But the initial report of someone choking didn't get called in until just before noon Wednesday, further deepening the mystery of why people suddenly became ill so much later. None of the products on the cleaning cart had spilled, he said, and the cart wasn't even near the bathroom when patrons began developing symptoms.

"Cleaning chemicals are common culprits in bathrooms," said Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor, a medical toxicology specialist at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut. "Perhaps the people in the bathroom mixed together bleach and ammonia," which would produce chloramine gas, an irritant. "It doesn't usually cause people to die, but if it's in a high enough concentration and/or the person had underlying cardiopulmonary disease (such as asthma), it could certainly be potentially fatal."

Dr. Marcel J. Casavant, chief of pharmacology/toxicology at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, said he thought the most likely culprit was hydrogen sulfide, or "sewer gas," which blocks the body's ability to use oxygen. It's called a "rapid-knockdown" gas, he said.

"If the concentration is high enough, just a few breaths could be lethal," he said. "If the restroom has a floor drain connecting to the sewer, and the floor drain has a U-shaped pipe which generally stays full of water, thus keeping the sewer gas out of the restroom, but the water in the U dried up, then gas could freely enter the restroom. "

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio