published Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Georgia woman with flesh-eating bug leaves hospital

  • photo
    This Saturday, June 23, 2012 photo released by the Copeland Family, shows Aimee Copeland, left, with her parents, Andy and Donna Copeland, outside Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Ga. Doctors plan to discharge 24-year-old Aimee Copeland on Monday, June 30, 2012/ Instead of going home, she'll move to an inpatient rehabilitation clinic and spend the next several weeks learning to move herself with the aid of a wheelchair after having her left leg, right foot and both hands amputated.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ERRIN HAINES, Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. — A Georgia woman diagnosed with a rare, flesh-eating disease left the hospital Monday after nearly two months and headed to an inpatient rehabilitation clinic, where she'll learn to move with the aid of a wheelchair after having her left leg, right foot and both hands amputated.

Aimee Copeland was released from Doctors Hospital in Augusta. The 24-year-old graduate student at the University of West Georgia was diagnosed with the rare infection, called necrotizing fasciitis. It came after she suffered a deep cut May 1 by falling from a broken zip-line along the Tallapoosa River. The bacterial infection emits toxins that cut off blood flow to parts of the body. It can destroy muscle, fat and skin tissue.

It was a bittersweet farewell for Copeland, said her father Andy Copeland in an interview with The Associated Press.

"She hated to see a lot of people she loves, to say goodbye," her father said. "The sweet is that she is moving on to the next phase."

Copeland's mother arrived at the hospital early to help her get ready for the big day and did her makeup for her, her father said.

Copeland's speedy recovery has defied doctors' initial prognosis. Her father has said they at first gave her just a slim chance of surviving. She spent weeks sedated and breathing on a respirator while undergoing amputations and skin grafts to replace large patches of infected skin.

A week ago, hospital officials upgraded Copeland's condition from serious to good. Her parents last weekend were able to take her outside the hospital's doors in her wheelchair — her first time outdoors since she arrived at the hospital in May.

After she learns to move herself with a wheelchair, Copeland will move on to another round of therapy in which she'll learn to use prosthetic limbs. Her father said Aimee Copeland is looking forward to the time when she will be able to return to the hospital, using her prosthetic limbs.

"She's a very determined young lady," her father said. "When she sets her mind to something, she achieves it."

Meanwhile, Copeland hopes to use any spare time to work on her graduate thesis in psychology. Her father said her goal is to graduate from the University of West Georgia in December.

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