SAVANNAH, Ga. — A week ago, doctors gave her little chance of survival. Now a Georgia grad student who is battling a rare flesh-eating infection is alert and bored enough to ask for a book, her father said on Tuesday.
Aimee Copeland remained in critical condition at an Augusta hospital, unable to speak because of a breathing tube in her throat as she continued to fight the life-threatening disease that took hold after she gashed her leg in a fall from a broken zip line.
Doctors had to amputate most of the 24-year-old woman’s left leg to save her life, and her father says she’ll likely lose her fingers too. But he said doctors now believe they’ll be able to save not only the palms of his daughter’s hands but her right foot as well.
Days ago she faced losing both of her hands and feet.
“This doctor can’t fathom a reason for why she’s improved the way she has,” Andy Copeland said in a telephone interview. “Her spirits are extraordinarily high. I am absolutely amazed.”
Copeland’s father said his daughter seems aware that she’s in the hospital after an accident.
But for now, they’re sparing her the details of her condition until after she has been removed from a respirator and is breathing on her own. That could come any day now.
He said the family also wants to make sure a hospital counselor is available to help Copeland once she is informed of her condition.
Losing a limb is extremely difficult emotionally, and can be particularly difficult for young people, said Dr. Nadine Kaslow, chief psychologist at Grady Hospital in Atlanta.
“There is a process that they go through, a grief process,” said Kaslow, who is not involved in Copeland’s care. “There is shock, disbelief, anger, sadness and then a period of reconciling one to the situation and healing and figuring out how they are going to move forward in their life.”
A graduate student in psychology at the University of West Georgia, Copeland contracted the rare infection called necrotizing fasciitis.
The incident happened days after she suffered the deep cut May 1 when the zip line snapped over rocks in the Little Tallapoosa River.