24-year-old Aimee Copeland, who had to have her left leg amputated after deadly flesh-eating bacteria infected a wound on her calf during a zip line accident, may soon lose more limbs.
Her father, Andy, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday that while Aimee is “coherent and alert” and doctors say that she has no signs of brain damage and that are lungs are healing, her hands and remaining foot may need to be amputated.
“Her fingers basically appear mummified,” Mr. Copeland told reporters at a press conference, AJC.com reported.
Doctors had previously labeled her chances of survival as “slim to none,” according to a message Aimee’s father, had posted on Facebook, but the family has remained optimistic after a neurologist and cardiopulmonologist have said that there appeared to be no damage to the brain or irreversible damage to the lungs, which were previously under attack.
“What we've got is nothing short of a miracle. My baby is alive and her mind is good. I know we have a difficult road ahead, but right now we're rejoicing,” Andy said.
“We want to think that way, but it can just change,” Aimee’s mother, Donna, said. “It's like a rollercoaster every day.”
Aimee had been kayaking along the Little Tallapoosa River in Carrollton, Georgia, last Tuesday when she stopped to take a ride on a home-made zip line. The line had snapped and she suffered a large cut on her left calf, which took 22 staples to close.
Doctors had initially told her to take Motrin and Tylenol for the pain, and after being turned away from doctors who gave her nothing more than some antibiotics and pain killers, they were horrified to discover that aggressive flesh-eating aeromonas hydrophila bacteria had invaded her leg injury and were quickly invading the rest of her body.
After doctors had diagnosed her with "necrotizing fasciitis," a rare but severe flesh-eating bacterial infection that can destroy skin, fat and muscle, they realized that her deadly infection had already spread to her thigh and hip, and that they had to amputate her whole leg if she wanted to live.
She was then flown to Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta where doctors performed a high-hip amputation of her left leg and removed other infected tissue from her abdomen on Friday night.
Her father told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Aimee was a psychology graduate student at the University of West Georgia and described her 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 aeromonas hydrophila 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 infested tissue.