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Georgia student who battled flesh-eating bacteria returns home

August 23, 2012|By Rene Lynch

Aimee Copeland is finally home.

The 24-year-old Georgia woman had spent several months in the hospital and then a rehabilitation center after a protracted battle with flesh-eating bacteria. The infection ravaged her body and nearly killed her: Both her hands, her left leg and her right foot were amputated.

The nation has been following her fight, in part through a blog created by Aimee's father, Andy. The blog kept family and friends apprised in the early days, when her prognosis was so uncertain.

Initially, doctors weren't sure what was causing the raging infection. It was only later that they learned that Copeland contracted necrotizing fasciitis after a day spent at the Tallapoosa River, enjoying the sun with friends. Copeland fell from a homemade zip line during that May 1 outing and cut her leg on river rocks. That wound provided a gateway for the infection.

Over the months, Andy Copeland posted stories that were by turns heartbreaking, harrowing and inspiring -- and were shared again and again by friends and strangers alike, as well as by Aimee's fellow students at the University of West Georgia, when she is pursuing a graduate degree in psychology.

For the last two months, Copeland had been at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, learning to move, eat, bathe and care for herself without prosthetic limbs, according to the Associated Press.

She was released on Wednesday and moved back into her family's home in Snellville, Ga.

Friends, relatives and strangers who were touched by Copeland's brave medical battle donated thousands of dollars to help fund a new addition on the family's home to accommodate Copeland's medical needs. The Associated Press reported that a home builder, Pulte Homes, added a 1,956-square-foot living space for Copeland at her parents' home.

It includes a bedroom and bathroom with wheelchair-accessible features; wider doorways; an exercise room with parallel bars and other equipment; and an elevator between the addition's two floors. The $200,000 job was paid for by donations.

"When we got back home, Aimee rolled around in her room and she was really laughing it up," the Associated Press quoted Andy Copeland as saying. Her first dinner was at a steakhouse where her sister works, her father said.

"She's actually very successful and is able to get around a good bit,” Copeland's father was quoted as saying. “Last night she never wore a prosthetic limb the whole day. She was eating and drinking and taking care of herself without ever putting a prosthetic on."

Aimee's plans for the future -- including whether she will return to school -- remain unclear. “Right now her mental condition is wonderful, her health is good and her energy level is high,” Copeland's father said, according to the AP. “She's doing great.”

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rene.lynch@latimes.com

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