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Aimee Copeland using new prosthetics, father says

By Steve Almasy, CNN
updated 10:47 AM EDT, Tue July 31, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Aimee Copeland has been fitted with prosthetics for her hands, one leg
  • Father says she is pushing hard during physical therapy
  • She might get out of rehabilitation next month
  • Her homecoming will be low-key, at her request, Andy Copeland says

(CNN) -- The 24-year-old Georgia woman who lost parts of all her limbs to a flesh-eating bacteria has three new prosthetics, her father told CNN on Monday.

Aimee Copeland has two hooks she uses for hands and a leg prosthetic but her injured left side where she lost that leg may require one more surgery, Andy Copeland told CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront."

Andy Copeland said his daughter is racing through rehab and might return to the family's home on August 22.

Even getting used to the hooks didn't seem difficult, Andy Copeland said.

"It's interesting ... after having those hooks on for about 10 minutes she seemed to be able to master the ability to use them," he said, adding that she was able to pick up a pair of shorts she had on her wheelchair at the rehabilitation facility and threw them across her body. "The prosthetist looked at that and said, 'Wow, it usually takes three days for somebody to be able to master the coordination of using those hooks to be able to do something like that.'"

Flesh-eating victim tells her story

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.

Andy Copeland: 'I have become a better father because of Aimee'

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.

She spent two months in an Augusta, Georgia, hospital before being released July 2 and starting rehab.

"The regimen that she is under right now is incredible," Andy Copeland said. Her workouts include 200 crunches in seven minutes, 400 leg lifts in the same time span and an "untold" number of pushups. The physical therapy takes about 90 minutes a day, he said.

"So she's really pushing it hard right now," he added.

When Aimee Copeland does return home, she will find a new "Aimee's Wing" on the Copeland's residence in Snellville, just east of Atlanta.

The nearly 2,000 square foot addition will include access ramps, an elevator to the home's second floor, an exercise room Aimee will use to continue her recovery, guide rails in the bathroom, and a separate wash sink Aimee can use to clean her prosthetics. The cost of building the wing is being donated by builder Pulte Homes.

Aimee wants a quiet homecoming, Andy Copeland said. He told her he was going to have a big crowd there to document the event but said his daughter doesn't want anyone to make a big deal out of it.

A medical home makeover begins

"I don't need that," she said to him. "I just need to come home."

On his blog, Andy Copeland related the story of how his daughter reacted when he told her he was getting a van with a wheelchair lift. Aimee wanted no part of it, he wrote. She wants to drive herself around in a Prius.

"The simple fact is that between her ears, Aimee is 100%," he wrote. "She knows that she can accomplish anything she wants and that lacking the hands or feet to accomplish such tasks is only a minor inconvenience."

A number of bacteria that are common in the environment but rarely cause serious infections can lead to necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacteria syndrome. When the bacteria get 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.

Family counters flesh-eating bacteria with faith

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