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Infectious Disease

Woman battling flesh-eating disease feels 'phantom' pain, lashes out

Aimee Copeland 3.jpg

Aimee Copeland (AP Photo/Copeland Family)AP2009

Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old Georgia woman who first made headlines after contracting a deadly flesh-eating bacteria, has been struggling with “phantom pain” where her hands were amputated, according to a blog post written by Aimee’s father, Andy Copeland.  

In the post, Copeland said his daughter has also been battling illness and unhappiness, as well as lashing out at her nurses.

Even though she no longer has hands, Aimee’s brain is still telling the body that her hands are there, the blog post described.  Before Aimee’s hands were amputated, her fingers and hands had become puffy and purple due to the necrotizing fasciitis, the disease Aimee contracted when she cut her leg after falling from a homemade zip line in May.  The bacteria, which spreads rapidly throughout the body destroying skin and muscle tissue, initially caused doctors to amputate one of Aimee’s legs and then eventually her remaining foot and hands.

According to her father, Aimee feels the pain in her “fingers” as if they were still failing her.

“She said her ‘fingers’ feel contorted and twisted,” Copeland wrote in the post.  “Nothing really helps her pain much.  Some of the pain medication makes her sick to her stomach and she winds up vomiting.  Like I said, she has struggled mightily.”

Even though Aimee had been fighting with her care givers and struggling with her anger, Copeland said she finally improved her mood through prayer and meditation.

The post went on to describe the overwhelming support the Copeland family has received – from one man donating blood for the first time in his life to another man who used Aimee’s story to overcome his own struggles with depression.

Copeland ended the post with an update on Aimee’s medical condition.  He said she has not needed the use of a ventilator for two weeks now and has reduced the number of IVs she needs from 16 to two.  However, Aimee will need at least two to three more debridement procedures – the removal of dead tissue – before doctors can begin giving her skin grafts.

But overall, Copeland remains optimistic about his daughter’s recovery.

“Considering that Aimee was once the ‘sickest person in ICU,’ according to one doctor, she has come a long way,” Copeland concluded.  “Her survival is a blessing and her continued pace of recovery is a testament to the power of prayer.”

Click for more from Andy Copeland's blog.