Aimee Copeland’s life—and lessons in love have inspired the world these last few weeks.
In the blink of an eye, 24 year old Aimee Copeland was fighting for her life after a zip line accident on May 1st. The University of West Georgia honoree developed a rare condition, known as necrotizing fasciitis after cutting her leg in the fall.
Her life-threatening fall led to several heartbreaking amputations and the failure of her five major organs.
The doctor said, “Sir, when we brought Aimee in here, we were trying to save her leg. Now we're trying to save her life,” recalls Aimee’s Mother. "We fell apart at that hospital. We just held each other and cried, and I begged God for her life."
On May 20th, 2012—the inconceivable and most astonishing stage of events were witnessed by Aimee’s closest family and friends. Aimee was taken off the ventilator for several hours, and began breathing on her own.
“This doctor can't fathom a reason for why she's improved the way she has,'” Aimee’s Father, Andy Copeland stated.
Taken aback by Aimee’s positive advances, doctors were shell-shocked at just how the bacteria took hold in the wound.
Necrotizing fasciitis, also known as a 'flesh-eating disease', is an erratic but extremely rancorous bacterial infection. The infection can destroy skin, muscles and fat. Other terms that have been used to describe this same condition include flesh-eating bacteria syndrome, necrotizing soft tissue infection, and hospital gangrene.
The disease progresses as the bacteria enter the body, often through a minor cut or scrape. As the bacteria multiply, it releases toxins that kill tissue and cut off blood flow to the area.
It is estimated that there are between 500-1,000 cases of necrotizing fasciitis in the US each year.
Symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis include skin that is red and swollen, a fever accompanied by chills, nausea and vomiting, weakness and diarrhea.
Prompt identification and treatment of necrotizing fasciitis is perilous in order to increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome.
Initial management includes patient stabilization, including supplemental oxygen, cardiac monitoring, and intravenous fluid administration. Management of necrotizing fasciitis generally requires a multidisciplinary method, involving surgeons, infectious-disease specialists, critical-care specialists, and pathologists.
Individuals with underlying medical problems and a weakened immune system are also at increased risk of developing necrotizing fasciitis. Various medical conditions, including diabetes, renal failure, liver disease, cancer, peripheral vascular disease, and HIV infection, are often present in patients who develop necrotizing fasciitis, as are individuals undergoing chemotherapy.
As in Aimee’s case, repeated surgical removal is often essential within the succeeding hours to days after the initial discovery. Sepsis may lead to other infection sites and those areas may need surgical involvement resulting in multiple amputations.
On May 27th, with spirits high in Atlanta, Aimee spoke her first words, "Hello. Whoa. Wow, my mind is blown."
'There is a process that they go through, a grief process,' specified Dr. Nadine Kaslow, chief psychologist at Grady Hospital in Atlanta. She further added, '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.'
While Aimee still hopes to pursue her dreams of working as a staff psychologist for a national or state park, her courageous fight has inspired individuals around the world.
Although doctors couldn’t stop the amputation of Copeland’s left leg, both hands and her remaining foot—Aimee’s smile couldn’t be any bigger.
Aimee’s father, Andy Copeland, said his daughter, “shed no tears, she never batted an eyelash. I was crying because I am a proud father of an incredibly courageous young lady. Her message doesn’t reside in her ability to use her hands, it’s her ability to use her heart and her mind.”
To learn more about life-threatening infections, find a physician in your area.Sources
The information on this site is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a licensed medical practitioner. If you are experiencing a serious medical condition call your local emergency services or your doctor.