Against odds, woman shows signs of recovery after contracting flesh-eating bacteria

Despite the odds of survival being "slim to none," Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old University of West Georgia graduate student battling a deadly flesh-eating virus, is showing signs of recovery and is still fighting to survive.

"Aimee has made drastic improvements today," Andy Copeland, Aimee's father, told  "Yesterday, she had some setbacks.  She was really on the ventilator 100 percent, but now she's only requiring 60 percent of the ventilator, and last night she moved her arms."

Copeland also said Aimee's digestive system is showing signs of improvement, which the doctors told him is an extremely good sign.

"When you're in this state, your intestines can actually atrophy," Copeland said.  "So you're wondering, 'Will her intestines actually work?'  Well her intestines are working just fine."

Aimee has even started moving and opening her eyes, just small miracles for the Copeland family.

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"She's a little agitated, but she's showing more signs of her personality," Copeland said.  "She's restrained, so she started to get angry, but she responded to me as I tried to soothe her.  These are just small things, but really mean so much."

Unfortunately, despite the improvements Aimee has made the past couple of days, Copeland said she still faces a big uphill battle.

“The bacteria that attacked her has basically shut her capillaries down,” Copeland explained.  “So it appears that because of the combination of the bacteria and medication she’s taking, we'll probably have to remove her hands from her wrist, as well as her foot.  It's something we'll have to get over, but it's something we're going to miss.”

“We’re really just glad to have her alive, because she has such a beautiful mind,” Copeland added.

The whole ordeal started for Aimee when a zip lining accident went from bad to much, much worse.  Just one week ago, Aimee was enjoying a trip kayaking down a creek with some of her friends in Carrollton, Ga.  But when she stopped to ride on a homemade zip line along the water, the line snapped and cut a large gash in her left calf.

Initially, Aimee had gone to the emergency room at the Tanner Medical Center in Carrollton on Tuesday after she had received the gash.  She thought the ordeal was over after the doctors stapled her leg up with 22 staples and told her to take pain medication, according to her father.

But Aimee returned to the hospital Wednesday after she continued to complain of severe pain in her leg.  She was prescribed pain killers and sent home yet again.

The pain still did not subside, so a friend drove a “pale and weak” Aimee to Tanner Medical again Friday morning.  When she arrived, an ER doctor diagnosed her with necrotizing fasciitis – a flesh-eating bacteria disorder of the deep layers of the skin – in her damaged leg.  The bacteria had entered Aimee's body through the gash she had received during the zip lining accident.

RELATED: Necrotizing Fasciitis (Flesh-Eating Bacteria) - Treatment Overview

“The surgeons advised me that they wanted to try to save her leg, but at this point saving her life took precedence,” Aimee’s father wrote on the Facebook page.  “They removed all of the infected tissue and advised that she would have limited, if any use of her leg.”

Aimee was then airlifted to JMS Burn Center in Augusta, Ga., where doctors rushed her into surgery and performed a high-hip amputation of her left leg.  After surgery, Copeland suffered cardiac arrest, but the doctors were able to resuscitate her.  It was at this point that the doctor’s told Copeland and his wife that Aimee’s chances of survival were “slim to none.”

“We actually sat down with her cardio pulmonologist,” Copeland said.  “I understand he was try to paint a realistic picture, but he really hit us with that.  But then I said, ‘Hey, Aimee is not your average patient.’”

To keep people updated on his daughter’s status, Copeland set up the Facebook page “Believe and pray for a miracle to happen for Aimee Copeland.”  Through the page, friends and family also have been calling for blood donations to help save Aimee’s life. So far, the page has garnered over 17,000 followers, all sending their thoughts and prayers to the Copeland family.

“The bottom line is that I've been asking people to pray and give blood,” Copeland said.  “I want to create awareness about giving blood for this particular disease.  Blood is required to save her.”

Copeland says that he is certain his daughter will make it through these tragic circumstances, and he cannot wait to see Aimee smile again.
“I will never quit on my daughter,” Copeland said.  “And my daughter will be a remarkable miracle the world's going to enjoy.  The more I put that out there, the more people will rally.  That's what’s keep her going.”

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