Fears for girl, 24, who got flesh-eating bacteria on zip-slide as she is critical condition after having her fingers and foot amputatedAimee Copeland, 24, now listed in critical conditionHad surgeries to remove hands and right foot on Saturday
Graduate infected with killer bug through deep cut in zip line accident
A young Georgia woman fighting a flesh-eating bacterial infection is in critical condition at Augusta Hospital.
Aimee Copeland had both her hands and her one remaining foot amputated in a major operation on Saturday.
Surgeons had previously amputated the 24-year-old”s left leg at the hip.
“All I can say is Aimee is still in critical condition,” hospital spokeswoman Barclay Bishop said.
Prayers and messages of support have poured in for Copeland on a Facebook page where her father, Andy Copeland, has chronicled her struggle.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper said the family had been overwhelmed by public interest and had asked for privacy.
When Ms Copeland learned she would lose her hands and remaining foot, and responded by saying “Let”s do this”.
Ms Copeland”s father recounted the conversation in an update on his Facebook page yesterday.
Mr Copeland wrote about the difficult talk he had a day earlier with his daughter after the 24-year-old woman contracted the bacteria after an accident.
He said she “shed no tears, she never batted an eyelash. I was crying because I am a proud father of an incredibly courageous young lady”, Andy Copeland wrote.
Traumatic: The 24-year-old student from an Atlanta suburb remains in a critical condition as she battles an infection called necrotizing fasciitis
Distraught: Paige Copeland, center, cries as her parents Donna and Andy Copeland speak about their daughter Aimee after she had her leg amputated
Ms Copeland suffered a deep gash in her leg after falling from a homemade zip line on May 1 over a Georgia river, and the bacteria took hold in the wound.
She said he was finally able to tell his daughter on Thursday what had happened since that outing, and how she”s been the focus of an outpouring of love from around the world.
“I was crying because I am a proud father of an incredibly courageous young lady”Andy Copeland
“We told her that the world loved and admired her,” he wrote in Friday”s update. “We explained that she had become a symbol of hope, love and faith.”
He recalled how Aimee”s eyes widened, her jaw dropped. Then, Copeland took his daughter”s hands and held them up to her face.
“She didn”t draw back in horror. She knew the condition she was in,” he wrote.
He explained that doctors believed her hands were hampering her progress, and they must be removed. Aimee nodded, her father said.
“She smiled and raised her hands up, carefully examining them,” her father wrote.
“She then looked at us. We all understood her next three words – “Let”s do this”.”
The 24-year-old student from an Atlanta suburb remains in a critical condition as she battles an infection called necrotizing fasciitis.
Doctors hoped they would be able to save her remaining foot after two days of treatment using a hyperbaric chamber, in which patients breathe pure oxygen to boost white blood cells and accelerate healing.
But they later learned that they would have to amputate that and her fingers.
The flesh-eating bacteria, Aeromonas hydrophila, emit toxins that cut off blood flow to parts of the body. The affliction can destroy muscle, fat and skin tissue.
Only a week ago, doctors gave her little chance of survival. But in recent days she has been alert and bored enough to have asked for a book to read.
Doctors had to amputate most of Miss Copeland”s left leg to save her life.
Cherished: Miss Copeland, a 24-year-old graduate from Georgia, has fun with friends
She has been unable to speak because of her breathing tube in he throat, but her parents said they”ve learned to read lips and are now able to communicate with their daughter, who was also asking for ice-cream.
“This doctor can”t fathom a reason for why she”s improved the way she has,” Mr Copeland said earlier this week.
“Her spirits are extraordinarily high. I am absolutely amazed.”
He said his daughter seems aware that she”s in the hospital after an accident. But for now, they”re sparing her the details of her condition until after she has been removed from a respirator and is breathing on her own.
He said the family also wanted to make sure a hospital counselor was available to help Copeland once she is informed of her condition.
Losing a limb is extremely difficult emotionally, and can be particularly difficult for young people, said Dr. Nadine Kaslow, chief psychologist at Grady Hospital in Atlanta.
“There is a process that they go through, a grief process,” said Kaslow, who is not involved in Miss Copeland”s care.
“There is shock, disbelief, anger, sadness and then a period of reconciling one to the situation and healing and figuring out how they are going to move forward in their life.”
Doctors at the local emergency room in Carrollton closed the wound she suffered in the zip line accident with nearly two dozen staples, but it became infected within days.
On May 4, she was diagnosed with the rare infection and flown 200 miles to Augusta for treatment by specialists at Doctors Hospital.
Copeland”s father said she faces a long recovery not just from her amputation but also from kidney failure and other organ damage caused by the infection.
“She”s going to be here for months,” he said. “She”s going to need to regrow skin that was removed. She”s going to need to learn to use prosthetics. She”s going to still be on dialysis for a while.”
Some news reports have said Miss Copeland was recently diagnosed with lupus, a chronic disease that compromises the immune system, but her father said that was not true.
Andy Copeland said his daughter had sought treatment for a skin rash. Doctors initially feared it might be a symptom of lupus, but tests revealed Copeland had a food allergy.
“She was a vegetarian and she had a soy-based diet,” Copeland”s father said. “And it turned out she was allergic to soy.”
More than 50 people lined up in the first hour for a blood drive earlier this week at the gymnasium at the University of West Georgia, where Copeland attends school 200 miles from the Augusta hospital. Some students walked to the blood drive, while others drove from other parts of the state.
Kara Dermo, a chemistry student who worked with Copeland at the Sunnyside Cafe, was one of the first in line. She was among the friends invited to try the zip line that sent Copeland plunging to the rocky river, but declined.
Dermo said Copeland”s illness has been weighing on the minds of people on campus. Even the slightest amount of good news has been enough to raise the hopes of fellow students.
“It”s very close to home. It makes you realize anything could happen at any time,” Miss Dermo said.
Fun loving: Aimee”s father, Andy, says describes her as “outdoorsy” and a “lover of people”
NECROTIZING FASCIITIS: WHAT CAUSES IT, AND WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS
Necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly known as “flesh-eating disease”, is a rare but extremely vicious bacterial infection. “Necrotizing” refers to something that causes body tissue to die, and the infection can destroy skin, muscles and fat.
The disease develops when the bacteria enters the body, often through a minor cut or scrape. As the bacteria multiply, they release toxins that kill tissue and cut off blood flow to the area.
Because it is so virulent, the bacteria spreads rapidly throughout the body.
Symptoms include small, red lumps or bumps on the skin, rapidly-spreading bruising, sweating, chills, fever and nausea. Organ failure and shock are also common complications.
Sufferers must be treated immediately to prevent death, and are usually given powerful antibiotics and surgery to remove dead tissue. Amputation can become necessary if the disease spreads through an arm or leg.
Patients may undergo skin grafts after the infection has cleared up, to help the healing process or for aesthetic reasons.