A 24-year-old woman is fighting for her life after contracting a deadly flesh-eating disease after cutting her leg on a homemade zip line eight days ago.
Aimee Copeland, a psychology graduate student from Georgia, is still in the hospital after doctors realized that the flesh-eating bacteria had infected her wound on her left calf could spread to the rest of her body.
Surgeons had no choice but to amputate Copeland’s leg on Friday night, and she is still in critical condition at the MS Burn Center in Augusta.
Doctors have labeled her chances of survival as “slim to none,” according to a message her father, Andy Copeland, had posted on Facebook.
Andy had told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Aimee had been admitted to the emergency room at Tanner medical Center in Carrollton last Tuesday after cutting her leg, and doctors there had closed her wound with 22 staples and told her to take Motrin and Tylenol for the pain.
The next day, Aimee returned to the hospital complaining of severe pain and was given a pain medication prescription, which had alleviated her symptoms but her pain continued to build up on Thursday.
"Aimee went to the doctor and received a prescription for antibiotics and posted a clean MRI report. Again, she was treated and released," her father told AJC.
On Friday a friend who was concerned with Aimee’s pale and weak appearance had driven her to the emergency room where a doctor diagnosed her with "necrotizing fasciitis," a rare but severe flesh-eating bacterial infection that can destroy skin, fat and muscle.
Doctors told Aimee that the fatal infection had already spread to her thigh and hip, and that they had to amputate her whole leg if she wanted to live.
Aimee was then flown to Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta where surgeons performed a high-hip amputation of her left leg and removed other infected tissue from her abdomen.
"The surgeons advised me that they wanted to try to save her leg, but at this point saving her life took precedence," her father said on Facebook. "They removed all of the infected tissue and advised that she would have limited, if any use of her leg."
Her father said that she had a cardiac arrest on the operating table, but doctors were able to successfully resuscitate her.
Though she had initially made progress over the next few days after the surgery, her father believes Aimee’s condition may be getting worse.
On Tuesday, a week after the accident, Aimee’s organs had begun shutting down and her temperature reached 102.
Andy is praying that his daughter will survive her ordeal. He described Aimee as “a lover of people” who majored in psychology because she wants to help people through their own traumas.
Necrotizing fasciitis, commonly referred to as ‘flesh-eating disease,’ is a rare but extremely aggressive bacterial infection that develops when the Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria enters the body, usually through a small cut or scrape. The bacteria quickly multiply and release toxins that destroy tissue and block blood flow to the area it infects.
Symptoms of the infections include small, red lumps or bumps on the skin, rapidly-spreading bruising, sweating, chills, fever and nausea, organ failure and shock. Infected patients need to be treated immediately to prevent death because infection spread quickly throughout the body causing sepsis.
Patients are treated with powerful antibiotics and surgery or even amputation to remove the dead or infected tissue.