Aimee Copeland faces long recovery before returning home

by: Richard Elliot Updated:

Aimee Copeland's father released the first photograph of his daughter since she contracted a flesh eating bacteria. (Photo courtesy ABC News)

ATLANTA - The father of the west Georgia grad student battling a flesh-eating bacteria said his daughter will be fitted for prosthetic limbs, but first must learn how to live without them.

Aimee Copeland, 24, contracted the flesh-eating bacteria after a private zip line accident in May.

Doctors have had to remove both her hands, a leg and a foot, but have upgraded her condition in an Augusta hospital from serious to good.

Andy Copeland said his daughter must learn how to take care of herself without prosthetic limbs before she can learn to use them.

"I think the first phase is for her to learn without prosthetics," said Copeland. "She needs to be able to develop autonomy, to be able to transfer from her bed to her wheelchair to the shower to the bathroom or anywhere else in the house. She can do it."

Andy Copeland likens it to Aimee Copeland's first day in college.

"If you can think about how exciting that step was when you get up and go to college," said Andy Copeland. "You're kind of leaving your old life behind, starting something new, packing those bags, getting ready to go to school and learn something. And that's what she's doing."

Paige Copeland said her sister must re-learn how to brush her teeth and wash her hair. She's helping her make the adjustment.

"She's so thankful," said Paige Copeland. "She always says thank you a million times. She looked at me the last time (I was at the hospital) and said, 'Paige, don't ever take any of this for granted.' I was like, don't worry. I won't."

No word when doctors will clear Aimee Copeland to return home.