May 11th, 2012
01:46 PM ET

Victim of flesh-eating bacteria is showing ‘fighting spirit,’ dad says

A University of West Georgia graduate student who lost one limb and will probably lose parts of others to flesh-eating bacteria is mouthing words to her family and showing a "fighting spirit," her father said Friday.

Aimee Copeland is fighting for her life at an Augusta hospital after her left leg and part of her abdomen were removed last week. She contracted the infection after injuring her calf in a zip line accident 10 days ago.

"I would say that she has more commands than questions right now," Andy Copeland told "CNN Newsroom," saying his daughter’s breathing tube was repositioned so her parents could read her lips. "'I can’t talk,' was what she said. And we said, 'We know, honey, you've got a tube down your throat.'

"She said, 'Then take it out.' So her fighting spirit is obviously shining through right now.'

Aimee, 24, contracted the bacteria Aeromonas hydrophila  during an outing with friends near the Little Tallapoosa River, about 50 miles west of Atlanta, on May 1, her family has said. She fell when a homemade zip line she was using snapped, and she gashed her left calf.

The family has said she sought medical treatment for the wound and received 22 staples to close it, according to CNN affiliate WSB. But on May 4, after she complained of pain for days, a friend took her to an emergency room, and she was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis and flown to Augusta for surgery. She went into cardiac arrest after being removed from the operating table, but was resuscitated, CNN affiliate WGCL reported.

Her father wrote in an Internet post Thursday that her hands and remaining foot also will have to be amputated soon, because blood vessels there have died as the disease has spread. He said Friday that Aimee doesn’t yet know about these next amputations.

"There’s no way I would reveal that to her in her current state. I believe that it would just traumatize her further," he said, adding that a psychiatrist at the hospital will tell her when she's able to talk.

Andy Copeland wrote Thursday that Aimee shows no sign of brain damage and that a doctor said her lungs are healing. On Friday, he told CNN the road ahead for Aimee will be difficult.

"It's obvious (that) if you’re missing one limb, it's going to be hard enough. But if you're missing all of your limbs, it’s going to be incredibly difficult," he said. "But I guess I want everybody to know is that she’s not alone. She’s got her family to support her in this, and not just us."

Thousands of people have connected with a Facebook page that the family also is using to update her progress.

"She's got the support of the entire world right now. And that's really what's humbled us greatly in this entire process, just knowing that everybody's looking at Aimee and praying for Aimee and just offering their undying support. For that, we'll be eternally grateful."

Aimee Copeland, of Snellville, Georgia, is a graduate psychology student at the University of West Georgia and was scheduled to complete her master's degree in the fall, school spokeswoman Yolanda Rodriguez said.

On Thursday night, a couple dozen students and faculty members attended a vigil for her in a building that houses the school’s psychology department.

"Despite the fact that medical evidence says she should be dead, she isn't. I think that’s what makes it so precious to so many people, to see how amazing she really is," Chris Aanstoos, a University of West Georgia professor, told WSB on Thursday.

Dr. Buddy Creech, an assistant professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, said that Aeromonas hydrophila, found in water and elsewhere in the environment, is one of many bacteria that can cause a flesh-eating process.

"When it gets into those deeper tissues, it has a remarkable ability to destroy the tissues that surround it in sort of this hunt for nutrition," Creech said Friday. "When it does that, those tissues die, and you see the inflammation and the swelling and the destruction that can be very difficult to control."

Creech said Aeromonas hydrophila more commonly affects humans when it is swallowed resulting in diarrhea. When young children or children with immune problems drink water with the bacteria, "they can get a very significant diarrhea illness from it," he said.

"It’s much more uncommon that we see it in (a case like Copeland's), where we see wounds get infected and the infection runs wild,” Creech said.

soundoff (694 Responses)
  1. Jake Rockwel

    Keep fighting kiddo... Stay strong

    May 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jon

    Although it's a sad story, this would never make the news if the girl wasn't attractive...

    May 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Fan Up

    Would this be much of a story if she was an ugly minority chick?

    May 11, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. prayforaimee

    the more this gets into the news, the more the top hospitals who can help her, cure her, will come to her rescue.

    May 11, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dark Crows

    how DARE that father not tell her about what she needs to know!!!!! Its not Fighting Spirit if you lie and don't tell her the truth. She is an adult at 24 and has a right to make her own healthcare decisions

    May 11, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • mary

      Maybe because news like that might cause her to stop fighting so hard. Can you imagine the shock this girl is going to get hit with when she is finally given the full impact of what has happened.
      One day you are young , healthy, attractive and the next this has happened? She will suffer so much emotionally after this.. Just to come to terms with it.. Its along rough road..
      So sad..

      May 11, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • jbg757

      You dummy. She just had cardiac arrest. Do you want her to live or not? They'll tell her when she is stronger.

      May 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • sean

      fool

      May 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • jld

      Honestly you believe she would choose to die rather than lose another limb (or more)? You are not her parent, you are not her and unless you've been in the EXACT same situation you have NO right to judge the decision her parents are making to SAVE HER LIFE.

      May 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      you need to consider the fact that this girl is still in very critical condition, and to tell her she has lost a limb and will lose more will be traumatizing for her, and would likely do more harm than good in her weakened state. to give her that type of anxiety when she doesn't even have a voice to talk through it would be like torture. let her get out of the woods. she knows she's fighting. what kind of person are you?

      May 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reggie

      You're a moron

      May 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aeromechanic

      Suck this!

      May 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • choward5400

      nonsense.... She can get sicker with bad news.

      May 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marin

      Obviously, she is far too ill to make any healthcare decisions right now, so her next of kin are required to make decisions for her. She can still have a life and, since her family know her better than you do, maybe they know that she'd rather live than die.

      May 11, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hybridhor

      When a person is in a critical condition like that, you don't give them all the bad news, because the spirit to live
      may not be strong enough and she will die.
      If I told my mother in law (who was dying of cancer )the things she did wrong, that would have killed her.
      Then my wife would never forgive me.
      Sometimes you need to use discretion with information.

      May 11, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dark Crows

      @mary everyone over 18 has a right to know what going on with their bodies and a right to make informed decision if she wants to live that's fine but she needs to know the truth. If we don't do that then she isn't an adult and we are hider keepers or her slave owners

      May 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. humblegentleman

    French green clay is what she needs. Look it up. It's unfortunate that "modern" medicine is so behind when it comes to biological sciences of the skin.

    May 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank Mondana

      Yes, her Doctors are not giving her the "right" treatment because they don't want it to get out that a real cure exists right?

      You alternative folks are not the brightest bulbs in the drawer

      May 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Quid Malmborg in Plano TX

      *** QUACK ALERT ***

      May 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aeromechanic

      OR, maybe she should just pray it away. Yeah right.

      Augusta has a top notch hospital. You knuckleheads and your alternative treatment are morons.

      May 11, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. r

    I still haven't read anything where a reporter has found out why she was not put on antibiotics right away when she first went in for treatment.

    May 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Spock500

      Easy. It's called HIPPA. Protection of private health information from people like reporters and yourself.

      May 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Captain Obvious

      She probably was put on antibiotics. Unfortunately, this type of bacteria is immune to most if not all antibiotics. She also likely contacted the bacteria in the hospital.

      May 11, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aeromechanic

      She was. This strain of bacteria is resistant to anti-biotics.

      Thanks for the stupid question though.

      May 11, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. mary

    I would suspect she contracted the infection at the hospital.

    May 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ivan

    lol, owned by bacteria.

    cute blonde white girl from georgia loses her limbs in a zipline accident due to killer bacteria,
    becomes headline news on CNN

    May 11, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • M Houston

      @Ivan
      lol???? LOL??? Put your head back in the toilet when you "lol"...

      May 11, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aeromechanic

      Sorry Ivan, there wasn't a black thug who was shot and killed after attacking a half white/half Mexican in this story.

      Now get in the back of the bus!

      May 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leigh2

      Nothing funny about it, troll. No conscience, no soul. And you're owned. On so many levels.

      May 11, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. avatar

    this is the wake up call that bacteria in water cannot always be seen

    May 11, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • jbg757

      Because it's so small, huh?

      May 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jerry the milk

    Someone tell ANDY COPELAND to read the bible pages..... Tell her that JESUS can comeback and heal holyspirits. Just read the middle part.

    Like Lauren Scruggs She almost died.... Someone actually told his father to pray for JESUS. She's alive and doing well.

    May 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cody

      How about giving credit to the doctors and medical treatment that actually physically helps people. I'll give you that having faith gives the Same healing effect as laughter which is psychological.

      May 11, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JMA

    I think Andrew Copeland is very selfish, as another poster has said, she should be informed of the situation. This is a nightmare, and believe that she would instead choose to go instead of "living such a life." If she chooses to "stay" well that's good too...but it will be her decision then.

    What an awful story...it has ruined my week.

    May 11, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aeromechanic

      You're not entirely wrong JMA.......she should probably be told and allowed to make the decision.

      May 11, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JustSaying2U

    Just leave an affictiom to a blue-eyed blond bgirl, and itd time to mobilize thr best R&D ctrs in america..

    May 11, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jason83

    Adorable young woman. I wish nothing but the best for her. What a horrible thing to happen to anybody, but a 24 year old who is just finding her way in the world with this flesh eating bacteria is heartbreaking to read about.

    May 11, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. woogiesmom

    My prayers are with this strong young woman...

    May 11, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
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