May 14th, 2012
02:46 PM ET

Family watches 'miraculous survival' of woman fighting flesh-eating bacteria

A 24-year-old woman in a hospital bed fighting off flesh-eating bacteria has to be told repeatedly - each time she wakes up - what has happened, her parents told CNN on Monday.

The medication Aimee Copeland is given leads her to forget each time she falls asleep.

"It's scary to her," said her mother, Donna Copeland. She asks where she is and "doesn't understand."

Yet Aimee Copeland - who has lost a leg and part of her abdomen to the virulent bacteria and may lose more, including her fingers - is keeping her spirits strong, her father said.

Can I get this flesh-eating bacteria?

"We really don't see the suffering side of it. We see the miraculous survival," Andy Copeland said. "I think that's the story that's inspired us, that's the story that's inspired, I think, the nation at this point."

On Facebook, he wrote that doctors have used words like "astonishing," "confounding" and "mind-boggling" to describe the young woman's recovery.

The master's student in psychology at the University of West Georgia was out with friends on May 1 near the Little Tallapoosa River, about 50 miles west of Atlanta, when she grabbed onto a homemade zip line. It snapped.

The accident left her with a gash in her left calf that took 22 staples to close.

Three days later, when the pain continued, a friend took her to an emergency room, where she was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis and flown to Augusta for surgery.

She had contracted the flesh-devouring Aeromonas hydrophila. The bacterium is "remarkably common in the water and in the environment," according to Dr. Buddy Creech, an assistant professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University.

"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," he said. "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."

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soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. saywhat

    Amen to that.
    What suffering.Its tragic.

    May 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. I'm just this guy, you know?

    Miraculous? I don't think so. A Miracle would be if we all prayed for her and her leg grew back. This is tragic in so many ways. And she has to be reminded each time she wakes up that she lost her leg and parts of her abdomen and that she may lose more? Not my idea of a miracle. Torture is more like it.

    May 14, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    My continued wishes for her recovery.

    May 14, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. elias

    Is there a way for me to get in contact with Aimee's parents? I have a medicine that may help her. Please contact me at my email

    May 14, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. chrissy

    @. Im just this guy you know, you are most likely on to something. Figure out a time and get everyone involved in praying for a miracle! Sign me up, ill help get the word out. It can be done, if you believe and its definitely worth trying! 🙂

    May 15, 2012 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  6. fernace

    Continued well wishes for this young woman, her family & friends!!

    May 15, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |