Family has faith in woman fighting flesh-eating bacteria at Doctors Hospital

While his daughter fights a rare and devastating bacterial infection at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital, Andy Copeland has faith it will mean an incredible outcome.

 

“Everything about this is extraordinary, the response from the people around the world,” he said, after having heard from relatives in Australia that Aimee Copeland’s plight made the news there.

The University of West Georgia graduate student is battling necrotizing fasciitis, sometimes called flesh-eating bacteria, which already has claimed her left leg and likely will claim her hands and her other foot from lack of circulation, her parents said. She is in kidney failure, receiving dialysis and is breathing through a ventilator, the family said.

Her doctors previously gave the family odds of “slim to none” for survival, Andy Copeland said, but the family believes she is getting better, she is responding to commands and is coming out of her sedation.

“Her chances are slim, but they are improving,” he said.

“I know that Aimee has a great purpose going forward, and I know that she is going to make it. She has got my absolute faith in that.”

Her older sister, Paige, said Aimee shook her head when asked whether she was in pain. Aimee loves yoga, meditation and nature, so her sister asked her to close her eyes and imagine they had just climbed a mountain and were looking out at a beautiful orange-and-pink sunset while bald eagles flew overhead.

“We’re just taking in all of the positive energy that nature has,” Paige Copeland said, fighting back a sob. “I said just take in all of that positive energy and use it, use it to breathe and just focus on your breathing just like you’re meditating.”

The family is relying on a strong Christian faith to guide them through and aid her recovery, the father said.

“I believe that there is nothing more powerful in this world than the power of prayer,” he said. “When we get people all joined together for a singular purpose, amazing things happen.”

Aimee Copeland is still in critical condition and will likely face months of recovery, he said. Her mother, Donna, is dreading the talk they will have to have.

“Someday we’re going to have to tell her, when she wakes up, that she’s like this,” she said. “I know we’ll get through this. God is good, and he’s going to bring this all around.”

Aimee was working on her master’s degree in psychology, and her father believes God will help her use this experience to help others.

“Now she is a living testament for what pain and suffering is all about,” he said. “People will really be tuned into her message. My daughter’s mind will be saved because the gift of this child exists in her heart and in her mind. That is what I praise God for right now.”

Shepeard Community Blood Center will hold a replacement blood drive at the University of West Georgia on Tuesday, but the family and Shepeard officials urged others locally to give blood that she and other patients will use in their recovery.

Student continues to battle flesh-eating disease
HOW TO HELP

A PayPal account to help Aimee Copeland’s family with medical bills and expenses has been set up through the University of West Georgia. To contribute, go to http://uwgpsychology.org/2012/aimee-copeland/.

The family and Shepeard Community Blood Center also are urging those who want to help to donate blood at a local center. Call (706) 737-4551 for more information.

NECROTIZING FASCIITIS

The “flesh-eating” bacteria is often caused by a fairly common bacteria called group A streptococcus that is typically found on the skin or in the throat. Most of the infections from the bacteria are fairly mild, such as strep throat and impetigo, an itchy skin rash. In 9,000 to 11,500 cases a year, bacteria get into the body through a sore or a cut and become invasive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In about 6-7 percent of those cases, it attacks the lining of flesh and muscles and becomes necrotizing fasciitis, CDC said. Though it can be treated with antibiotics, surgery to remove infected tissue sometimes becomes necessary. About 25 percent of the cases are fatal, according to CDC. Overall, invasive group A strep infections cause up to 1,800 deaths a year, the agency said.

BLOOD HELPS

Shepeard Community Blood Center and the Copeland family are urging those who want to help Aimee Copeland and other patients like her to donate blood at one of three centers:

• At 1533 Wrightsboro Road in Augusta, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call (706) 737-4551;

• At 4329 Washington Road in Evans, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., on Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Call (706) 854-1582;

• At 353 Fabian Drive in Hitchcock Plaza shopping center in Aiken, Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call (803) 643-7996

Learn more about Aimee, and find ways to help
National Institute of Health: Necrotizing soft tissue infection
National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation
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