Things have taken a turn for the worse for Aimee Copeland, the Georgia graduate student whose entire left leg had to be amputated last week after she contracted the rare flesh-eating disease necrotizing fasciitis. Now her family says it looks like doctors will need to amputate both of her hands and her right foot to stop the disease from spreading.
Still, Aimee's family is trying to look on the bright side: her father, Andy Copeland, says Aimee is coherent and able to communicate, and there doesn't appear to be any brain damage caused by the incredibly dangerous bacteria. Despite the devastating developments, the 24-year-old does seem to be getting better. She's still in critical condition and relying on a ventilator to breathe, and one can only imagine how drastically her life is going to change if she indeed loses all four extremities. But as her family and the doctors have pointed out, it's amazing that she's still alive at all: the mortality rate for the type of necrotizing fasciitis Copeland has is reported to be about 60 percent.
While flesh-eating disease is pretty rare, when the bacteria does strike it can destroy the body extremely quickly. It's also stealthy in the way it acts, because it burrows deep into a person's tissues and its effects may not be evident on the skin's surface right away. So even though some commenters on the story have blamed the doctors who first treated Copeland after her zip-lining accident for not doing more to treat the deep gash in her left leg, this isn't really a fair judgment. They probably could not have known what they were looking at, and in any case would have had little reason to suspect flesh-eating disease initially. While it's terrible that the disease has progressed so far and done so much damage to Aimee Copeland's body, the doctors should only be commended for doing everything they can to save her life.
However, this tragic, terrifying story and the media attention it's received have hopefully given everyone a valuable lesson. Chances are most people will never have to experience what Copeland has gone through, but you can never be too careful when it comes to infection. Don't ignore the warning signs, and get treated right away!
The other lesson to be learned from Aimee Copeland's story is that the human spirit is strong and miracles do happen, especially with the love and support of family and friends. Hang in there, Aimee, everyone is wishing the best for you.