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Flesh-Eating Bacteria Survivor Aimee Copeland's Goal: Helping Others

A typically fatal infection took limbs from a Georgia university student, but not her spirit and love for life. Sponsored by Grape-Nuts.

 

About this sponsorship: In honor of the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s historic ascent of Mount Everest, Patch and Grape-Nuts are teaming up to highlight those who inspire people around them to climb their own mountains.

In May 2012, Aimee Copeland of Snellville, GA., had just completed her core courses for a master’s degree in psychology when she fell into a creek and cut her leg in an accident involving a homemade zip-line. The wound was infected with typically fatal flesh-eating bacteria in the accident, and Aimee lost her left leg, her right foot and both hands. But she did not lose her spirit.

Here, Aimee talks about the challenges she still faces after the amputations, and about others that she has set for herself.

Q: What goals are you trying to achieve right now?

A: That’s a hard question, because I have so many goals! Right now I’d say my focus is on healing myself completely, getting back to the level of functioning I had before the accident. Walking is, for sure, a main goal. The prosthesis for my left leg has been built, and I already have a foot for my right side. I just started driving with it. I wear it every day, but without a left one there’s not too much I can do with it.

When I had my injury I had just finished the last core classes for my master’s thesis.  I hope to be done with it by the first of July.  I’ve applied to the University of Valdosta’s Master's program and want to get a degree in social work.

Q:  How do you plan to achieve your goals?

A:  I think by doing what I’ve been doing all along – staying in good physical condition. Swimming, stretching, yoga and core work are all really important. Beyond that it’s working closely with the prosthetist. Every amputee is different. 

The next step is to really speak up for myself with the health insurance company. I have to be really, patient. I can’t rush it and I can't get frustrated. Being patient has been really important.

Q: What will you do when you succeed?

A: I’ve been dying to go hiking. It’s not going to be the first thing -- it’s going to take time to learn to walk. But I’m dying to be in the woods. My boyfriend’s great, he takes me out in the wheelchair. I can’t wait to take my first steps in nature.

My intention is to get a master’s degree in social work. Then, I’ll be able to apply for a license, and with a license I can practice anywhere. I could work with Wounded Warriors or other organizations that help physically disabled people.

I would like to buy a big chunk of land and build trails and camp sites, a handicapped-accessible nature park. That’s like a 10-year plan. That’s a ways in the making.

Tim Suggs May 02, 2013 at 02:22 AM
'amazing' is an understatement. i could not imagine what her new normal is. what a strong and courageous woman.
Bill Bryan May 02, 2013 at 02:15 PM
Strong, courageous, amazing. I'm not sure if there is a word to describe this young lady. That she is already planning to devote her life to helping others is an inspiration. What a beautiful role model!
Lisa Kemp June 02, 2013 at 11:48 AM
She is such an inspiration and so so amazing and strong. I love this young ladies spirit. She does not give up. Keep up your amazing work girl!!!
Alex Vallas June 02, 2013 at 12:12 PM
"Flesh Eating Survivor Speaks Out" -- glad you clarified the headline with the one above. The first headline gave the impression the woman was a flesh eater (Canibal). Best wishes to this young lady.
Michael Smith June 02, 2013 at 03:15 PM
This is so frustrating to read. I have never HEARD of "bacteria" that eat up your flesh/body. Is this REALLY true. How many people get this? From where does this bacteria come? Can anyone who knows e mail me cause I can't wait here now. To: newmcybersmith@aol.com THANKS
Mark C M June 02, 2013 at 03:40 PM
Aimee Copeland's courage is truly AMAZING. I will keep Aimee in my daily prayers adding her to my prayer list. Best wishes to you Aimee for your continued recovery and progress with your goals, including your 10 year plan. Mark
mwood June 02, 2013 at 04:11 PM
good luck and stay strong, you can do anything you want to
Karen Swafford June 02, 2013 at 05:05 PM
I followed this story from the start and cried plenty of tears for her. What an inspiration to others!! Aimee, keep reaching for the stars, my dear, and you will succeed in all your goals!
Charmaine June 02, 2013 at 05:14 PM
You are a blessing and an inspiration to others. I hope all your dreams come true!
nancy scalia June 02, 2013 at 06:13 PM
Aimee,I am so glad to hear an update.I thought of you often and sent prayers your way.What an inspiration you are.You have no idea how many people look up to you.
Muff June 02, 2013 at 06:15 PM
Just also remember military veterans who have gone back into combat missing limbs ! They are also Heros.
Rob June 02, 2013 at 06:27 PM
It is so impressive, I mean really impressive, that the Dunwoody Patch always has a member who has first hand knowldege and expertise with any story posted here. This happens time and time agin on this site. All I can say is WOW!!!
Tammy Osier June 02, 2013 at 06:53 PM
Such an inspiration! And to think about some of the things that we stress over. She is beyond an inspiration.
Greg Lock June 02, 2013 at 07:43 PM
Yes, this is a real bacteria, which exists mainly in poluted rivers and streams. Thankfully it is quite rare and rarely attacks humans. However when it does it is usually fatal. Aimee is a wonderful young woman and one of the rare survivors. She deserves all our support for her amazing courage and strength.
Greg Lock June 02, 2013 at 07:49 PM
Please read the book "Back in the Fight" (Available at Costco) The story of Sgt 1st class Joseph Kapacziewski of the 3rd Ranger Battalion who lost a leg in Iraq. Undaunted he requalified as an Airborne Ranger and has since returned to full active duty and has served five more tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Pam J June 02, 2013 at 08:00 PM
I agree. So many men and women came home without some of their limbs. At least Aimee didn't have the mental problems that come with war. I'm sure hers were tough enough, though. We are lucky that we live in a time now where people can lead long productive lives even when you have a devastating injury like this.
ROGER CARR June 02, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Aimee, And I thought MS was a challenge! I have all 4 limbs, although the legs don't respond as instructed/desired most of the time. You have inspired me to get out of my wheelchair and try to walk again. I love your idea of an accessible Nature Park....it is so fantastic to get out and just enjoy! If I had the land or the means to purchase it.......it would be yours in an instant (assuming I could help). Keep on pushing and inspiring others and please keep us updated on your journey. Before long, I want to be reading about Aimee Copeland's accessible nature park........it just hit me...........the perfect name.............."COPE LAND".
isabel diaz June 02, 2013 at 09:47 PM
i saw news year past......
John Myers June 02, 2013 at 10:20 PM
N.F. Necrtizing Fasciitis The flesh eating desease. It is a hoorible thing for anybody or any animal to have. I came down with it about four months after my wife died of cancer. By the time I finally got to the hospital I was all but out. I went into a coma a few minutes after going to the ER. I was apparently in the coma for three months. Plenty long enough for some *^$@*( to clean out my bank account. I was taken into the O R at least twice for removal of my left leg. I still have it, not much left above the knee, left buttock pretty much gone, came up the outside of my thigh and crossed over to tne stomachwhere they got ahead of it. Thnk you God and OR surgeons. I have talked to a woman from Northern Ca. who told me she would home deliver a dozen children before having NF again. I think living alone has helped me the most. My only complaint is that all of this has btought out the COPD. 29 operations and still not done. But I have learned a lot. John M.
bri June 02, 2013 at 10:25 PM
I advise against emailing this individual. There is a thing called "google" that contains a vast amount of information on this bacteria. My guess is he or she is reeling any unsuspecting people into a scam of some sort.
john frettige June 02, 2013 at 10:52 PM
tough girl....horrible story...see things like this all the time..wish her well. by the way, any lawsuits yet?!!?? you know, its gotta be somebody's fault...
Eugenia June 02, 2013 at 10:54 PM
That is an awesome name for it. COPE LAND there is a lot in the name. Sweet
Tammy Osier June 02, 2013 at 11:06 PM
@ Roger. How inspiring that you have gained the strength to try again by her story. All the blessings in the world to you. Fresh air, and oxygen to your limbs and organs is very healing. Plus, getting out and getting sun to help with vitamin absorption. I hope the nature Park gets on its feet. I, too, will be waiting and watching for updates.
Mike Walsh June 02, 2013 at 11:56 PM
In the grand scheme of things we are all bugs. Aimee, you are a firefly.
dan crabtree June 03, 2013 at 01:20 AM
And who says prayers do not work...
denise houser June 03, 2013 at 01:41 AM
I am so glad 4 her! My ex- boyfriend contracted this bacteria about 19 yrs ago. It is called NECROTIZING FASCITIIS. It is also nicknamed Jim Henson's disease (creator of Muppets). Back to my BFs story: His name was Mark. ( He died 8 years ago from something unrelated). The top of his hand swelled up in 1 day the size of an orange. I rushed him to the ER where they wanted to amputate his entire arm. Mark, 38, told them NO WAY. He said he would rather die, and he meant it. The doctors said they could try to scrape away the bacteria (debriding) and took him into surgery immediately. Over the next 8 days, he had 8 of these debridings, They scraped away more and more as it grew up his arm. The flesh was gone on his hand and forearm. They continued this process and grafted skin from his rear onto his arm and had to actually sew his hand into the stomach so that skin could grow on the top of his hand. They sent him home after several weeks , but I do not remember how long it took for the graft to grow...but guess who got to clean and dress it everyday and night? :). Anyway, long story short, although he went through many surgeries, he lived and kept his arm and eventually regained full mobility with just a little muscle loss (after a couple of years). It is still unknown how he contracted it in the first place. He died in 2005, the day after his 48th birthday.
Jessie wills June 03, 2013 at 11:44 AM
'amazing' is an understatement. i could not imagine what her new normal is. what a strong and courageous woman.
Muff June 03, 2013 at 11:59 AM
WOW ! Thank you for being a strong friend !
Davida Rosenberg June 06, 2013 at 08:15 PM
Karen, you expressed my thoughts exactly. I followed her story from the start and also cried plenty of tears for her along with heavenly petitions. But look at how her life will have an impact that being 'whole' could never have achieved. In fact, I would say that she is 'more whole' than many of us. Her life is a blessing and a glory to God. Her family is also remarkable.
Davida Rosenberg June 06, 2013 at 08:17 PM
Wow Roger, you really hit it. The park should be called COPE LAND. RIGHT YOU ARE! great posting.

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