Health Care More | | | Editor

Aimee Copeland faces more amputations for flesh-eating bacteria

  • Follow Health

The 24-year-old woman fighting a flesh-eating bacteria at an Augusta hospital learned Thursday that she needs more amputations to aid her recovery.

Back | Next
Donor Service Trainer Velma Harvey prepares Louis Young, of Lilburn, Ga., to give blood at the Shepeard Community Blood Center in Augusta. Young, a member of the South Gwinnett Rotary Club, came with fellow club members to donate blood in honor of Aimee Copeland.   EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Donor Service Trainer Velma Harvey prepares Louis Young, of Lilburn, Ga., to give blood at the Shepeard Community Blood Center in Augusta. Young, a member of the South Gwinnett Rotary Club, came with fellow club members to donate blood in honor of Aimee Copeland.

Aimee Copeland’s father, Andy Copeland, said doctors recommended that she lose her hands and remaining foot because of the added risk of infection, according to an update posted Friday morning on a Facebook page dedicated to the young woman.

In the Facebook post, Copeland said he and his wife explained to their daughter that she would need the amputations.

“Aimee, I do not want anything to happen to you. Your mind is beautiful, your heart is good and your spirit is strong. These hands can prevent your recovery from moving forward,” Copeland said on the Facebook post.

After carefully examining her hands, Aimee Copeland mouthed three words understood by her family: “Let’s do this.”

“Aimee shed no tears, she never batted an eyelash. I was crying because I am a proud father of an incredibly courageous young lady,” her father said.

Aimee Copeland, of Snellville, Ga., contracted the flesh-eating infection May 1 when she gashed her leg after falling from a homemade zipline that broke over the Little Tallapoosa River.

Doctors at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital amputated her left leg. She is still listed in critical condition at the hospital.

Members of Atlanta-area Rotary Clubs who traveled to Augusta to donate blood in her honor Friday said they learned about the updated condition on their bus trip.

“Our heart just goes out to Andy and the family,” said Barbara Myers, a member of the Rotary Club of South Gwinnett County, of which Andy Copeland is a member.

Eleven Rotarians donated at Shepeard Community Blood Center on Wrightsboro Road. The South Gwinnett club has organized a blood drive Monday at First Baptist Snellville. More than 220 people were registered on Thursday afternoon for the drive that can receive 300 blood donations, Myers said.

Louis Young, of Lilburn, Ga., and a member of the South Gwinnett County Club, donated blood for the first time in about 10 years Friday. With childrenabout Copeland’s age, Young said the young woman’s need for blood brought him back to donating.

“I never understood the need for constant blood donations to serve a hospital like the one Aimee’s in,” Young said. “Knowing what I know now about the real need, that changes my whole perspective.”

Blood donations at Shepeard cannot be designated for Copeland, but they will help the blood center keep a stable supply, spokeswoman Claire Rossie said.

“We are asking for all blood types because the Copelands wanted to help other families at the local burn center and other hospitals. They know it’s not just her that needs it but other families as well.”

McDuffie County School Superintendent Jim LeBrun, a member of the Thomson Rotary Club, donated blood on Friday in honor of Copeland.

“Anytime we can help a fellow Rotary brother out in a time of crisis we definitely want to step up to the plate,” he said.

Thursday morning's Facebook post by Andy Copeland

I apologize for not posting any recent updates on Aimee. The past 48 hours have flown by like a whirlwind. Much has happened and my computer time has been extremely limited. I truly appreciate your patience and understanding.

That said, here is the account of Aimee's last 48 hours:

On Wednesday the doctors suggested that we remove the breathing tube and complete a tracheotomy. The fact is, the flesh wound on her abdomen makes it difficult for her to take deep breaths and cough, which means that she could get congestion in the lower part of her lung. Her pulmonologist made the suggestion for the tracheotomy and I was 100% in agreement. She hated the throat tube anyway (so did I) and the trache will make it easier for us to read her lips. Her respiratory therapy will also take a huge leap up in quality.

Aimee is still a very sick girl, but her quality of care took a big step forward when she was approved for hyperbaric treatments. She is scheduled for a total of ten treatments that will help her regain more of the blood flow in her hands. Her hands have gone from a purplish hue to a reddish flesh tone. She can flex her wrists now as well. Unfortunately her fingers are beyond recovery.

Aimee knows about her hands now. She holds them up to her face, examines them and shrugs her shoulders as if to say, "yeah, so what?"

Aimee's sense of humor is intact. I rubbed her foot and laughed at some of the things she had mouthed and I told her "Aimee, you are as priceless as the Mona Lisa." Aimee shook her head and lifted her pitifully swollen and atrophied hand toward her eyebrows as she mouthed some words. Paige, Donna and I looked at each other and back at Aimee. Whatever she wanted to say, she was adamant about it. We did our usual consonant/vowel breakdown and forced her to spell the word. Then we all burst out laughing. 

Her words?

"I'm nothing like the Mona Lisa. She doesn't have eyebrows."

Later that night, we put the Kokua Festival/Jack Johnson and Friends CD on for her. The moment she heard "Better Together" she started swinging and bobbing her head while mouthing the words of the song. You'd have thought that she was grooving on the dance floor. In her limitless imagination, she was.

Thursday, May 17

I once again apologize for the delay in providing this latest update on Aimee's condition. I feel that any report on her situation must be handled with love and compassion and thus it takes more time to deliver news of her medical developments. Past attempts to speed the delivery of such information have appeared to me to be cold and callous. I think you would agree that Aimee deserves better. 

This morning Paige and I set off for the hospital first thing. The past two mornings Aimee had been in hyperbarics, which ran through and eliminated her morning visit. When I called this morning, the nurse said that Aimee was not going to hyperbarics. She also said the doctor wanted to talk to us.

I was a bit apprehensive when I saw Aimee's pulmonologist. As we approached him, he went into a semi-squat, hands on his knees, much like a shortstop getting ready for the next pitch. He reached up and pulled his reading glasses down to the tip of his nose and made eye contact. I took a deep breath and braced myself .

"We need to talk about Aimee's hands and foot," he said as his eyes bored into mine. He didn't have to say anything. We had noticed a remarkable change over the past several days in Aimee's hands. They went from a splotchy purple color to a red tone and then to a pinkish flesh tone. Yesterday I had noticed them turning back to an angry red. Knowing all this, I nodded and he continued. The doctor explained that her body was trying hard to heal her hands, but the blood flow was too poor. There was an added risk of infection. The palm of her right hand had developed a sore. Today her hands had returned to their splotchy purplish coloration and they were actually hampering Aimee's recovery. 

The massive loss of fascia on Aimee's left side also continues to present a big risk to her recovery. This weakens her ability to breathe deep and to cough, which further complicates her respiratory condition. The pulmonologist said that Aimee's respiratory condition was excellent following the tracheotomy that was performed the previous day. We had a window of opportunity to perform the amputations and have a successful outcome. If Aimee developed respiratory problems and her hands released an infection into her body, there was a risk that she could become septic again. As they usually do, the doctors were presenting us with a medical no-brainer. We had to do what is necessary to save Aimee's life.

A short time after this meeting with the pulmonologist, we convened in a meeting with him and three surgeons. I knew this decision was not being recommended lightly when I learned that they had flown in a noted plastic surgeon who specializes in hands. The hand surgeon confirmed our fears. The hands were endangering Aimee's progress. As always, my decision was simple.

"Do whatever it takes to give us the best chance to save Aimee's life."

Some people may criticize my decision and say we should have prayed over Aimee and asked God to heal her hands. Trust me, this we have done every day. I believe God has appointed and anointed Aimee's doctors as miraculous healers and I trust that their decisions are God-breathed. 

I then asked the doctors if Donna, Paige and I could share these developments with Aimee. They responded that they wouldn't have it any other way.

As we walked back to Aimee's room there was a man talking loudly to her. He was flailing his arms and kicking his legs. At first I wondered if someone had sneaked into the ICU and was attempting to frustrate her. Then I noticed that the person was trying to get Aimee to follow his motions. He was her physical therapist.

When he saw us gowning up to enter the room, the therapist left. Aimee had a look of frustration on her face. She had been crying from her exertions, which must have been incredibly difficult for her. The look on her face warmed instantly the second we walked into the room. Her pulmonologist had even noted that Aimee's blood pressure rose when she saw us, which was a good thing.

A small tear rolled down the side of Aimee's face as she smiled and greeted us. 

The next thirty minutes we took Aimee through the timeline of her illness. From the kayaking trip to the amputation of her leg to the miracle of her survival. We told her of the outpouring of love from across the world. We shared with her the Mike Luckovich editorial cartoon. We told her of news conferences and television appearances. We told her that the world loved and admired her. We explained that she had become a symbol of hope, love and faith. Aimee's eyes widened and her jaw dropped. She was amazed.

I took Aimee's hands and held them up to her face. She didn't draw back in horror. She knew the condition she was in. 

"Aimee, these hands are not healthy," I explained. "they are hampering your progress."

Aimee nodded.

I explained the use of "pressers" and how the medication restricted the blood flow and collapsed the veins in her hands. I explained everything that the doctors explained to us.

"Aimee, I do not want anything to happen to you. Your mind is beautiful, your heart is good and your spirit is strong. These hands can prevent your recovery from moving forward. The doctors want to amputate them and your foot today to assure your best possible chance of survival."

Aimee nodded.

"Do you have any questions about any of what we have discussed?"

Aimee thought for a moment and mouthed some words. Paige caught her response and quickly interpreted.

"I'm a little confused, but I'll figure it out."

Aimee nodded to confirm the interpretation.

We went on to explain that Aimee would be able to use prosthetics to get around. That she would be fitted with artificial limbs to help her get around and perform normal daily functions. She nodded at this and asked if they would be fitting her immediately. We told her that she would need to continue to recover and the prosthetics would come later. She again nodded approvingly.

She smiled and raised her hands up, carefully examining them. She then looked at us. We all understood her next three words.

"Let's do this."

A tear rolled down my face as I walked out of her room. I wasn't crying because Aimee was going to lose her hands and foot, I was crying because, in all my 53 years of existence, I have never seen such a strong display of courage. Aimee shed no tears, she never batted an eyelash. I was crying because I am a proud father of an incredibly courageous young lady.

Comments (11) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Edward1968 05/18/12 - 10:52 am
A Strong Young Lady

The necrotizing fasciitis may have won some battles against her but her attitude and inner strength will ensure she wins the war. Her family and the staff of the Still Burn Center are also very instrumental in how far she has come.

BamaMan 05/18/12 - 11:08 am

This just brings me to tears. What a strong young lady, that has a strong Christian family to support her! What do people do, that don't have God in their life? My prayers for all of you.

burninater 05/18/12 - 11:25 am
What do people do, that don't

What do people do, that don't have God in their life? My prayers for all of you.
The drive and hope of leading a blissful life, regardless of the difficulties encountered on the way, is founded in a love for life, not a love for afterlife. Hope, faith, strength, and determination do not exist solely in those with a God-faith.

With her love of life and obviously loving family, I suspect an atheist Ms. Copeland would have responded in exactly the same way. The triumph of the will to live and love despite horrible setback is a triumph of the human spirit.

Jeepster2001 05/18/12 - 12:02 pm
Unbelievable Young Woman

What a great outlook on life ! Inspiring, even to this old 57 year-old. Don't know if I could be this strong. Prayers to you, and your family !!

aninsider 05/18/12 - 12:44 pm
God works in mysterious ways

This young lady's story is definitely straight from Heaven to our hearts. She is an inspiration to all of us.

eagle 05/18/12 - 01:01 pm
This young lady is much

This young lady is much stronger than I could even think of being. With the strong family support she has, not to mention the support of a lot of strangers, she'll be ok. I wish her all the best and will be rooting for her.

stillamazed 05/18/12 - 01:30 pm
I think that in the face of

I think that in the face of death people really realize how strong they are and realize how unimportant other things are and she has done that. She is an amazing young woman and her family is amazing as well.

Willow Bailey
Willow Bailey 05/18/12 - 03:01 pm
Aimee has allowed God to

Aimee has allowed God to define who she is. Love and continued prayers for you and your family. What an encouragement you are to your family.

Willow Bailey
Willow Bailey 05/18/12 - 07:58 pm
As to our dispositions as

As to our dispositions as Christians, we are not instantly "sanctified" upon receiving Christ as our Savior. It is a journey frought with both successes and failures. The process continues until Christ comes for his people. At that time, those in Him, will be made perfect.

Praise God that He has elected to supply Aimee with the spirit of hope and acceptance during these crucial decisions. We should not however, expect Aimee not to go through a grief process at some point. She must, in order to be made whole emotionally again. It is how God has designed us. What we don't feel cannot be healed. When we are weak, He is strong.

I've commented on this, because too many times Christians are made doubtful of their salvation when they are feeling their losses and their faith is questioned. These things divide us from Christ. Our God wants to hold us and grow closer as we experience the trials and disappointments in our lives.

InChristLove 05/18/12 - 09:37 pm
Excellent comment Willow

Excellent comment Willow (7:58pm)

Willow Bailey
Willow Bailey 05/18/12 - 11:16 pm
Thank you, ICL.

Thank you, ICL.

GodisSoGood 05/19/12 - 08:18 am
So awesome to see God at work

So awesome to see God at work in all of this. It is through Him that Christians have peace even amongst trials and tribulations.

Equaltreatmentforall 05/19/12 - 08:39 am
God's ways are not our ways.

God's ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. This young lady is a brave Christian woman who knows that God is in control and trusts in him. What a amazing testimony she is.

Pu239 05/19/12 - 09:04 pm
1125 Post

I hope that made you feel better…. Your opinion is way more important to this young lady that the thoughts and prayers of her immediate family and well wishers.

Back to Top
Search Augusta jobs
Top headlines
Defendant acquitted of top charges at rape trial
After less than two hours of deliberations, the jury acquitted Christopher Davis of rape and aggravated sodomy, convicting him only of aggravated assault, possession of a knife during the ...