Aimee Copeland, a 24-year-old Georgia woman who contracted a flesh-eating virus after cutting open her leg on May 1st, has regained consciousness, but remains in critical condition at an Augusta hospital. Copeland was using a homemade zip line near the Little Tallapoosa River when the zip line snapped, causing her to fall into the water and cut open her calf. Though cleaned by doctors, the wound became infected with a common fresh water bacteria called Aeromonas hydrophila, which then led to necrotizing fasciitis (NF), a rare albiet deadly infection that destroys skin, muscle and underlying tissue. Copeland has lost her left leg to the infection and doctors are currently struggling to save her hands.
Copeland is now alert and, ideally, will soon be able to breathe without a respirator — an astounding recovery considering that NF has a fatality rate of nearly 60%. Says her father Andy Copeland, "The words I hear from the medical professionals to describe Aimee's continued recovery are 'astonishing,' 'incredible,' 'confounding,' 'mind boggling' and 'unbelievable. All those are fitting words. My favorite word is 'miracle."
Sadly, Copeland's memory has been affected by the infection, causing her to forget and be forced to relearn what has happened to her every time she wakes up.
Says Andy Copeland in a blog post:
We have been trying to help Aimee by focusing her away from the negatives of her condition. As wonderful as that moment will be for us, it will also be the time that Aimee receives all the answers about her condition. She will learn about the loss of her beautiful leg. She will discover that her hands lack the dexterity and tactile response she has known all her life. How would you respond in such a situation? I think that moment will be one of horror and depression for Aimee.
As previously mentioned, cases of NF are decidedly rare. ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser comments, "This was a perfect storm. She had an injury to her leg, she was exposed to water then had this germ, and she was one of those people where the germ just took off."