When Aimee Copeland, a 24-year-old Georgia woman who lost parts of four limbs to a flesh-eating bacteria, returns home from rehab next month, she'll find it much different and much bigger than when she left in May.
Photographer: Courtesy Copeland Family
Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old Georgia woman who has waged a two-month battle against a flesh-eating bacteria, is expected to be released from the hospital Monday.
"She's real excited," her father, Andy, said last week on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront."
"She's been seeing those four walls inside that hospital for a long time."
Copeland will enter a rehab facility for an undetermined amount of time before returning home after surgeons amputated most of her hands, part of her abdomen, one of her legs and her remaining foot in an effort to stay ahead of the infection. She has also had multiple skin grafts.
"This next step is her opportunity to go (to) the next phase and learn something, be able to rehabilitate and basically relearn her life skills," said her father. "She needs to be able to develop the autonomy to be able to transfer from her bed to a wheelchair to the shower to the bathroom or anywhere else in the house. And she can do it."
Copeland, 24, has gone outside the hospital in a wheelchair at least once -- June 24 -- as her condition has improved, her father said in his blog.
Copeland's ordeal began May 1, when she was riding a makeshift zip line across the Little Tallapoosa River, about 50 miles west of Atlanta. The line snapped, and she fell and received a gash in her left calf that took 22 staples to close.
Three days later, still in pain, she went to an emergency room. Doctors eventually determined she had necrotizing fasciitis caused by the bacteria Aeromonas hydrophila.
Her father has written regularly since about her situation, with over 78,000 "likes" on his Facebook blog devoted to Aimee's fight.
A number of bacteria that are common in the environment but rarely cause serious infections can lead to necrotizing fasciitis . When the bacteria gets into the bloodstream -- such as through a cut -- doctors typically move aggressively to excise even healthy tissue near the infection site in hopes of ensuring none of the dangerous bacteria remain.
The infection attacks and destroys healthy tissue and is fatal about 20% of the time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, estimates that fewer than 250 such cases occur each year in the United States, though estimates are imprecise since doctors do not have to report the cases to health authorities.
Copeland has remained positive throughout the ordeal that brought her to the brink of death, her sister told "OutFront."
"She's just amazing because she just knows that she's blessed and she is just so happy to be alive," Paige Copeland said with admiration. "Aimee, she cherishes life. She relishes life. Everyday is a gift and she always has had that outlook even before her accident."
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