Updated:NEW YORK —
Aimee Copeland spoke out publicly Tuesday for the first time about her recovery from a flesh-eating bacteria.
Channel 2's Linda Stouffer traveled from Atlanta to New York to sit down with Copeland, minutes after she appeared on Katie Couric's new talk show.
Stouffer said when she met with Copeland at the "Katie" show studios, Copeland was smiling, optimistic and strong.
Stouffer said it took everyone's breath away when Copeland walked out on the stage using a walker, when just four months ago doctors thought she might not survive.
Copeland lost her hands, a leg and a foot after she contracted the bacteria after a zipline accident where she cut her foot.
Copeland told Stouffer she remembers vividly learning what was happening to her.
"I remember being conscious in the hospital, not really knowing what was going on, and it wasn't until my dad showed me my hand, my fingers are black, blood red," Copeland said.
Copeland told Stouffer she wants to hike again, kayak again and with one prosthetic leg, she is walking again.
But each step takes incredible determination and strength she never needed until now.
"In the inside, I'm the same person but in my daily life, completely different," Copeland said.
Despite all she doesn't have now after the amputations, she explained the moment at Atlanta's Shepard Center when she found what she calls a different kind of blessing.
"I almost died, and when something like that happens to you, you just appreciate the whole human experience so much more," Copeland said.
Copeland underwent intense rehab at the Shepherd Center, where she worked to build up her strength.
"It was really tough," Copeland said.
"You say boot camp, but it's hard work. You can do how many crunches? 300? In how many minutes?” Stouffer asked Copeland
"Seven minutes," Copeland said.
"Did you ever think you'd have to work that hard?" Stouffer asked Copeland.
"No, I never thought I would want to," Copeland said.
She told Stouffer her determination comes from her faith.
"I think I've been blessed to see life through a different perspective," Copeland said. "I think this happened to me because I could handle it because this has allowed me to help so many different people."
"You've had so many people donating their blood at blood drives, their time building the addition at your home. What's your message for them?" Stouffer asked Copeland
"My heart goes out. I'm so thankful I can't express it in words how much that has helped me," Copeland said.
Couric talked to Stouffer after taping the show. She called Copeland's walk on stage an amazing sight.
When Copeland contracted the bacteria, she was a graduate student at the University of West Georgia where she is finishing her master's thesis.
Aimee surprised with new car
One of the most emotional moments for Copeland Tuesday was when she found out she was getting a new car from Steve Rayman Chevrolet in Smyrna, where Copeland will get to choose her new ride.
All of the employees told Channel 2's Erin Coleman they are so happy to be able to do this for such an amazing woman, giving Copeland her pick of any vehicle designed to fit her needs.
It was a surprise that's been in the works for days.
"I'm going to be able to provide her a car, she's going to get in and drive, and there's nothing that will make me feel better in my lifetime," Steve Rayman,
owner of Steve Rayman Chevrolet, said.
General Manager Tim Barnett showed Coleman some features that can be added, like a driver's seat that moves and swivels to accommodate a wheelchair, and hand controls to brake and accelerate.
"The technology is really amazing in what they can do. You have the ramps that are electronic that slide in and out, that are able to lift her into the vehicle," Barnett said. "It's all electronic driving."
Copeland is getting it all for free. Her story of survival touched the people at the dealership, and so many others.
"It was really something that the whole dealership all of our 100- plus employees here felt so strongly that we wanted to be able to help her if there was a way we could, so that's how we got involved," Rayman said. "I really want her to have whatever she wants."
Rayman calls it a small thing for a woman who's fought so hard. And he can't wait for the next chapter.
"I look forward to her getting the keys and driving off in that car to be like every other 24-year-old," Rayman said.
Once Copeland does get the vehicle, the dealership says their involvement doesn't stop there. That vehicle will come with a lifetime warranty.
Friends, family gather to watch Aimee's story
In Copeland's hometown of Snellville, friends, former classmates and co-workers gathered to watch her nationwide appearance.
Channel 2's Tom Regan was there as onlookers wiped back tears, as they watched a playback of her incredible survival, beating the odds and every heartbreaking obstacle thrown her way.
"Incredible. It's just not words for it. It's everything we have hope for her," said Snellville City Councilman Bobby Howard.
One of the most dramatic parts of the show, was when Copeland walked out onto the stage, the first time many people have seen Copeland walk.
"It's just amazing, and Aimee is such a wonderful young lady. It's so inspiring," Susan Chappelear said.
"The whole entire family is incredible and just to see how Aimee has really worked to be able to do what she done today, walk, it's amazing," said Kelly McAloon.
"I could not do what she has done," Brianna Cordoor said. "I could not have such high hopes, such high spirits, to see someone look and live the way she does. It's so inspirational."
A welcome home event for Copeland is expected for Friday night in Snellville.