May 10th, 2012
07:22 AM ET

Student fights flesh-eating bacteria after zip line fall

[Updated at 3:57 p.m. ET] A University of West Georgia graduate psychology student is fighting for her life with flesh-eating bacteria after falling off a homemade zip line and cutting her leg, CNN affiliates WSB report and WXIA report.

Aimee Copeland, 24, fell off a homemade zip line near a friend’s home in Carroll County, Georgia, on May 1. Doctors at a hospital in Augusta were forced to amputate most of her right leg on Friday after the bacteria destroyed her leg muscles and moved into other parts of her body. She stopped breathing and at one point and had to be resuscitated, her father, Andy Copeland, told WSB.

On Thursday, Andy Copeland told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that her hands and her remaining foot also will have to be amputated.

But he said she was showing improvement at a hospital in Augusta and was "extremely responsive, coherent and alert" on Thursday, the AJC reported.

The AJC reported that Copeland contracted Aeromonas hydrophila in the deep gash in her leg after the zip line broke.

Filed under: Georgia • Health
soundoff (336 Responses)
  1. cpc65

    "Yikes" is all I can say. Scarey how something like this can just happen. Some survivors of the Joplin tornano last year got fungal infects in their wounds to add insult to injury (and the loss of their homes to boot).

    May 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |


    May 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. LJ

    This is awful, that poor girl 🙁

    May 10, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. rad666

    She could have been exposed to the bacteria in the hospital where she went to get treatment for the original cut.

    May 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gail

      No this is a common water and fish pathogen. and food. Not something you pick up in the hospital.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. strepA

    Having survived this bug twice without losing a limb my heart goes out to this girl. Strep A, which is what this is, can kill you. I died once and they had to bring me back. It became systemic an ran through my blood stream. Luckily, both times, the site of infection was in a place with little muscle tissue(ankle, finger)

    May 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • inga

      Aeromonas hydrophilia is not the same as Strep A.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • CRIS

      once an infection enters your blood stream you become septic which , yes can kill u. you also have to test negative 3 times for stepA to be officially cleared and no more MRSA precautions against u

      May 11, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. Solid

    Okay, yea... this is just about the most awful thing I've read today.

    May 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. sbowie

    Does this girl have no immune system? This infection usually only presents a problem in individuals with a compromised immune system.

    May 10, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      The bacteria in question entered her body through an open wound (gash on her leg), and that wound was not adequately cleaned out at the emergency room. The earlier story about this girl (from a couple days ago) said they bandaged her up and gave her some pain killers.
      Your body's main defense against infection is your skin (the largest organ of your body), and hers was compromised. Sad to see anyone go through this, but if she survives, she's young enough to turn her life back around again. I wish her a speedy recovery.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Gail

    This is not a bacteria that lives on peoples skin but is found in water environments. Water wounds are notoriously dangerous as there are several really bad pathogens that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections. This bug is also a food pathogen and can sometimes cause gastroenteritis. I just found one in some ground chicken I cultured from the grocery store. I'm a microbiologist. Just cook your chicken and clean carefully after handling. This article says it is an aeromonas but earlier reports were saying it was a strep. These would be treated wth very different antibiotics and the docs probably initially assumed it was a staph or a strep and treated it with the wrong thing. They should have thought about the water environment. Just speculating. These are bad bugs to get in a wound. Very very sad. They actually cause many more fish deaths than human though. Wounds are not to be taken lightly. This is so disturbing.

    May 10, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • LaShawn

      She had gone river rafting prior to the ziplining, I bet that she was still wet from that and got the infection.

      May 11, 2012 at 6:15 am | Report abuse |
  9. jack

    makes you want to zip your body into a plastic bubble and never go outdoors. very scary indeed. especially considering my immune system is already compromised from HIV. things like this scare me to death.

    May 10, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MyFakeName

    I was hoping to see the leg 🙁

    May 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • chicago7

      Your big foot in your mouth should be close enough.

      May 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. praying

    I know Aimee personally. Yes, it was a homemade zipline. No, she did not make it herself. Yes, it was a river that she fell into shallow water when she cut herself. Yes, she probably got the bacteria from there. Yes, the original hospital did staple it up and send her on her way. No, that is not the correct medical procedure. You need to let it 'breathe' and irrigate it with sterile solution instead of closing off the wound. Yes, it was found out that she has lupus, which surely propagated some of her situation. She was diagnosed with a flesh-eating bacteria that ate away her muscle and caused her to lose her leg, and now the blood vessels in her remaining foot and hands have died, and will likely lose those too.

    The point that remains is that she is fighting through this, along with help from a ventilator, but is, in all terms, improving. Any and all of you would hate to see a friend in this situation. Those with jokes...have a little humility. This is a serious matter, and near and dear to the hearts of those that know her, and many that don't.

    With that said, there are plenty of things in place to help Aimee and those in similar unfortunate situations. There will be a blood drive at the University of West Georgia on May 15th, and a collective fund set up at United Citizens Bank in Carrollton, GA. I encourage all to contribute their thoughts and prayers to this amazing fighter, and cast away any negative thoughts about the situation. Aimee already touched anyone's life that she ran into, and she will continue to do so, I'm sure, after this ordeal is over with.

    If anything can be taken from this whole situation, it's that life is precious, and that things can change in the blink of an eye. It's unfortunate that it takes a situation such as this to draw people closer together, but there is a silver lining to most anything. I Implore all of you to take a moment to realize how fortunate you are to be as able-bodied as you may be, and how much worse it could be.

    Thoughts and prayers go out to Aimee and her family, who are all stronger that I ever imagine I could be.

    May 10, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oh for Pete's sake!

      Thanks for your input and for clearing up some matters. My heart is with Aimee. It is a horrible situation.

      May 10, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • LaShawn

      Very well stated!! This is so tragic and heartbreaking. I can't help but to think, had she received proper treatment initially, things would have turned out differently. I hope she keeps up the fight for her life and it's good to see she has amazing support from family and friends such as you.

      May 11, 2012 at 6:22 am | Report abuse |
  12. Chris from Augusta

    She is at MCG Hospital in Augusta. If any hospital keep saver her life it is this top notch medical facility. We hope for the best and keep you in our prayers. Good Luck, God Bless.

    May 10, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bob

    My wife/girl friend contracted, flesh eating bacteria, this 7 years ago from an unknown source, she had been sick for about 3 weeks, had a slight case of pneunomia and came in contact with Strep A and lost most of her right calf, portions of the same ankle and thigh and a bit of her left calf. All in all she was lucky, saved her limbs, stopped the spread and she recovered well enough to continue her active life save the very obvious scars and missing flesh. My heart goes out to Aimee, please fight you were saved for a reason.
    To those who have made the not so funny comments you really need to reflect on what this does to a person and a family. We spent 69 agonizing days in the hospital wondering first will she survive and after 9 operations wonder how she would continue her life. Please use your brain before you write insensitve comments, the internet does afford you anonymity but karma does not.
    I wish the entire Copeland family the best and hope for a very fulfilling recovery.

    May 10, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dolphintam

    All my positive thoughts go out to this brave young lady.

    May 10, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. johnborg

    Wow. I've done why less intelligent things then going down a homemade zipline. I don't blame her for trying to have fun; She might of thought of the possibility of getting hurt, but flesh eating bacteria! What in the world. My prayers go out to her and her relations.
    I'm curious if this occurred in a swampy area in Georgia though. I've never heard of this. Does anyone know?

    May 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • pragmatist

      I have taken care of a few people with similar infections–incredible speed of spread and destruction to the body. What's sad is that I can only think of the person who constructed the zipline and how bad they feel. Unfortunately, I smell a lawsuit...

      May 10, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • stepanova

      Carrolton GA, where this happened, is not a swamp area. Lots of woods, mostly pine and oak, and rolling hills. It's a nice little college town.
      My heart goes out to Ms. Copeland and her family. I do hope she gets better.

      May 10, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      It's west of Atlanta, not generally swampy, but you can have small swamps anywhere. How sad and scary. Keep fighting young lady.

      May 11, 2012 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
    • what's a zipline?

      what's a zipline?

      May 11, 2012 at 2:11 am | Report abuse |
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