Crowd overflows at blood drive for student fighting infection

by: Manuel Bojorquez Updated:

Aimee Copeland

CARROLL COUNTY, Ga. - The overflow of donors at a blood drive for a student battling a flesh-eating bacteria has prompted a follow-up event.

"Hang in there, don't give up," said one of the first in line to donate, Shirley Murphy of Cobb County.
She and 200 others donated blood at the gym of the University of West Georgia, where Aimee Copeland is a graduate student. Copeland remains in critical condition after losing a leg to the bacteria.
"I just felt like I could do something to help, and the least I could do was donate a pint of blood," Murphy said.
Volunteers with the Shepherd Community Blood Center could accommodate 200 people, but they had already reached 108 only one hour into the blood drive.
Kara Dermo, a good friend and co-worker of Copeland was able to donate, though she was nervous about doing it for the first time.
"I only hope if my daughter was in this situation, everybody else would jump to do this," Dermo said as she prepared to donate.
"It's got love in it. It's not just blood," she added.
Copeland fell from a homemade zip line May 1 after kayaking with friends along the Little Tallapoosa River in Carroll County. She suffered a gash to her calf from the fall, which somehow became infected by a bacteria called Aeromonas Hydrophila, according to her family.
The infection was undetected until about a week later, when she was rushed to the emergency room pale and weak. Doctors determined amputating her leg would be the only way to save her life.
She is receiving special care at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, where she's still trying to breathe on her own. She could lose her fingers to the infection as well.
But her family has focused on the miracle of her survival, because doctors thought the odds where slim to none.
Her father, Andy Copeland, recently wrote on his blog that she was able to smile, laugh and even play games, though she is still unaware of the full extent of her condition.
He also stressed the importance of blood donations, not only for his daughter, but for other patients who desperately need it. His message was heard loud and clear, especially because the case has now garnered national attention.
The next blood drive for Copeland is scheduled for 5 p.m. June 1 at the University of West Georgia gym.

Doctor calms fear over flesh-eating bacteria

The case of Aimee Copeland has brought the subject of infectious diseases to everyone's attention. But medical specialists tell Channel 2 Action News we shouldn't worry too much about the dangerous bacteria.

Infectious disease doctors said dangerous bacteria are everywhere.

Experts told Channel 2's Dave Huddleston our bodies are fighting bacteria off all the time, and it only becomes dangerous when bacteria get deep into the body, like in Copeland's case.

Huddleston talked to others who know exactly what Copeland is going through.

"It brought back a lot of emotions. A lot of my friends reached out to me, have encouraged me to reach out to her because when I was in thehospital, a couple people who had necrotizing fasciitis had reached out to me," said Janelle Hansberger, who lives in Charlotte, N.C.

Two years ago, the former Atlanta resident got a cut on her leg. She then contracted the bacteria and said doctors had to amputate her left leg at the knee.

"It's very heartbreaking. I just feel for her. She's so young and she's beautiful, but she can have a full life," Hansberger said.

Hansberger now competes in triathlons.

Dr. Robin Dretler is an infectious disease specialist and chief of staff at DeKalb Medical Center.

Dretler said germs like the one Copeland encountered, aeromonas hydrophila, are everywhere.

"This is a bug that's common in water. We swim in it all the time," Dretler said.

He said it only becomes dangerous when you're seriously injured.

"If you get a deep wound, very quickly get it attended to and let your doctors know where you got this," Dretler said. "All bacteria are not sensitive to all antibiotics. You need to know if you're going to put someone on antibiotics what you need to cover."

Dretler said he sees cases of flesh-eating bacteria from time to time, but not a lot.

He said in most cases it's because they didn't have the proper information on how to properly treat the infection.

Dretler said if someone is playing in the water and scrapes their knee or falls on the ground, just clean it out with soap and water and keep an eye on it.