By jueseppi B.
Aimee Copeland, right, is seen on July 2, 2012, leaving the Augusta, Ga., hospital where she spent 49 days recovering from a flesh-eating bacterial infection and the loss of her left leg, right foot and hands. (Obtained by ABC News)
Aimee Copeland, the Georgia grad student who lost her left leg, right foot and hands to flesh-eating disease, has left the Augusta hospital that saved her life.
It’s been two months since Copeland cut open her calf in a fall from a homemade zip line near the Little Tallapoosa River, inviting the deadly infection that landed her in critical condition. Now, after a touch-and-go recovery, the 24-year-old sets her sights on rehabilitation.
Copeland is en route to a private rehabilitation facility, where she will learn to use a wheelchair and, eventually, prosthetic limbs. Her family, who lives in Snellville, Ga., has decided to keep the location of the facility private. But a spokeswoman for Doctors Hospital of August said it’s “closer to home.”
Andy Copeland said his daughter’s departure from Augusta was bittersweet.
“She hated to see a lot of people she loves, to say goodbye,” he told the AP. “The sweet is that she is moving on to the next phase.”
The next phase will involve months of intense rehab, according to Dr. Alberto Esquenazi, chief medical officer of MossRehab in Philadelphia.
“The first step is to provide patients with self independence,” said Esquenazi, who is also the chairman of physical medicine and rehabilitation at MossRehab Regional Amputee Center. “Right now, someone has to feed her, help her with hygiene, turn on lights, open doors. … But some simple devices can help her do these things herself.”
Copeland will learn to use a wheelchair until her body is strong enough to tolerate prosthetics.
“That should gain enough time for her to heal,” Esquenazi said, describing how damaged skin is more sensitive to the pressure caused by artificial limbs. “Six months after the amputations, she should be ready for permanent prosthetics.”
Rehabilitation will be long and difficult, but Esquenazi said Copeland has what it takes.
“She has the advantage that she’s a young woman, and from what I understand a very determined young woman,” he said. “She also appears to have a very supportive environment, between her family, her friends and her community.”
Andy Copeland said his daughter is up for the challenge.
“And she feels the challenge will create a tremendous opportunity not just for her to learn more and to gain more from this but to learn more that she can use to help others along the way,” he told “Good Morning America.”
Copeland plans to graduate from the University of West Georgia this year, finishing that thesis as her own and best case study.
“She wants to be able to walk and get her master’s degree in December,” Andy Copeland said. “And you heard the word right — ‘walk.’ That’s what she intends to do.”
Barclay Bishop, a spokeswoman for Doctors Hospital, confirmed that Copeland was discharged from the Joseph M. Still Burn Center. She could not provide any more information.
Copeland’s father, Andy, said last week that the 24-year-old graduate student at the University of West Georgia will move to an inpatient rehabilitation clinic in metro Atlanta. Copeland’s left leg, right foot and both hands were amputated.
The Snellville, Ga., woman became infected with a bacteria that attacks the flesh after cutting her leg open during a May 1 zip-lining accident.
Doctors gave her little chance of surviving when she was admitted. She spent weeks sedated and breathing on a respirator while undergoing amputations and skin grafts to replace large patches of infected skin.
Leaving Monday was a bittersweet farewell.
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 will spend the next several weeks learning to use a wheelchair, then she is expected to be fitted with prosthetic limbs.
Her father said she is looking forward to using prosthetic limbs.
“Her chances, when it comes to rehab, everything you get out of it is a direct reflection of what you put in,” he said. “She looks at challenges as an opportunity, a chance to make a difference in her own life and in others. I know she is going to put in incredible effort to make sure it’s the best possible experience she can have.”
The ambulance crew transporting Copeland had a chance to see some of that attitude. Tom Adkins, the president of Capital City Ambulance, said he was moved by her “unbelievable spirit.”
“She’s got a dynamite personality,” said Adkins. “If you were not able to visualize her, there would be no way to know that she has been through this kind of experience. She will be an inspiration to people around the world.”
A 5K race and auction in Augusta on Saturday raised more than $10,000 to help the family with expenses.
A Facebook post on a page dedicated to Copeland that her father frequently writes on thanked supporters Monday afternoon. The post said Copeland is focused on finishing her thesis and graduating.
“This young woman is a true testament of will and determination,” the post said.
Good luck & Congratulations to Aimee and her family & friends. We all wish you the best quickest full recovery humanly possible.
Filed under: Causes, Celebrity, Celebs & Fame, Good News, Health, News, World News Tagged: | Aimee Copeland, Andy Copeland, Associated Press, Augusta Georgia, Copeland, Doctors Hospital, flesh eating disease, Good Morning America, Prosthesis, rehab, University of West Georgia