Flesh-eating-disease victim 'brave'
Three months ago, Aimee Copeland's father asked the world to pray.
Aimee, a 24-year-old West Georgia University graduate student who suffered a deep wound to her left calf in a May 1 ziplining incident, had been diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis -- also known as "flesh-eating bacteria."
Her father, Andy Copeland, began a blog to "ask people for prayers." He also created a Facebook page called "Believe and pray for a miracle to happen to Aimee Copeland."
Today, many of those prayers have been answered.
Although Aimee lost her left leg, right foot and both hands to the disease, she was released from the Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Ga., on July 2, and her father said this week that she is making speedy progress in rehab.
"We prayed incessantly throughout the entire ordeal," he said. "More and more people have jumped in to pray for Aimee. When you get a message from a person from Greece saying they're praying for her, it makes you aware that the world is not as big of a place as it seems."
At first, Aimee's injury seemed fairly routine. She received 22 staples in her calf and was released, Andy Copeland wrote in his blog. But days later, major organs shut down.
"We didn't know if she was going to make it," he said.
Jacqueline Roemmele, executive director of the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation, called Aimee "very lucky and brave," as one in four victims do not survive. She said there are about 2,000 to 10,000 cases every year.
The Copeland family -- including Andy's wife, Donna, and their daughter Paige -- face what Andy Copeland called "alarming" medical bills in excess of $200,000 so far.
The Aimee Copeland Fund has been created to help. Augusta residents organized a "Run for Aimee" 5K in June and raised more than $17,000. Ryan Bowers, a contestant on this season's Bachelorette, appeared at the run and met Aimee.
"She's having an impact on so many people, and she really helped me deal with what I was going through after the show," said Bowers, who owns a sports training academy in Evans, Ga., and is donating $1 for every $5 wristband sold.
Sunnyside Caf, a restaurant where Aimee worked, held a benefit concert and has raised more than $5,000.
The city of Snellville, where the family resides, pulled in $19,000 during a fundraiser in June. Builder Pulte Homes is donating a nearly 2,000-square-foot addition to the Copelands' home to accommodate Aimee's needs.
Andy Copeland said Aimee plans to complete her master's thesis and graduate by May. He said a significant part of the experience has been seeing how many have come together to support Aimee.
"I want her to know what the world thinks about Aimee Copeland," Andy said. "It's not what happened to Aimee, but it's what happened to the world."
To contribute to the Aimee Copeland Fund, go to aimeecopeland.com/donations.
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