Doctors fear woman may lose hands to flesh-eating bacteria

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AUGUSTA, Ga. - A local college student fighting a rare infection that forced doctors to amputate her leg could lose more extremities.

"I couldn't conceive of what it would be like for my daughter to lose her hands and the only other foot she has as well and that appears to be what is going to happen," Andy Copeland, the girls father said.

Aimee Copeland, 24, fell off a homemade zipline last week during an outing near a friend's home in Carroll County.

She cut her calf, and after getting 22 staples, the pain continued.

On Friday, a friend took her to the emergency room when she became pale and weak.

Paramedics rushed her to the Joseph M. Still burn center in Augusta for specialized care and that's where doctors determined they would have to amputate her leg to save her life.

But her family focuses on the positive.

"The most important thing is my daughter is still alive," Mr. Copeland said.

Thursday afternoon, her family held a news conference and said Aimee is showing signs of improvement.

"We talked to her earlier this morning and she was just remarkable, coherent and she really could sense what was going on around her," Mr. Copeland said.

Aimee's older sister Paige donated blood for her Thursday and shared a moment when they connected over music.

The question was over whether she wanted to hear the Grateful Dead or the Rolling Stones, "... and she shook her head so I said 'All right, Grateful Dead it is,' " she recounted, laughing.

Family and friends said Aimee is fun-loving, driven and smart.

She was just about to complete a master's degree in psychology at the University of West Georgia.

They still are not sure how she contracted the bacteria, known as aermonas hydrophila.

But doctors said it's commonly found in warm environments and water -- and though it can cause infection, Copeland's case is rare.

The family is emphasizing the need for blood, plasma and platelet donations for Aimee and others who could benefit.

They urge people to donate through the Shepeard Community Blood Center.

A blood drive has already been organized for Aimee at the University of West Georgia gym. It will be from 2 to 7 p.m. Tuesday May 15

As far a recovery, doctors told the family it's not a matter of days or weeks -- but months.

"My faith tells me the blood of Jesus Christ saved my daughter," said Mr. Copeland. "And I believe the blood of donors has also saved my daughter."

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Fellow students hold vigil for Amiee

Holding hands and holding each other, fellow students and faculty sent up prayers for Copeland Thursday evening at the University of West Georgia.

"We were all able to say a word that reminded us of Amy, and that was our prayer that would reach her so she knows and would feel our presence," fellow graduate student Richard Lafleur told Channel 2's Erin Coleman.

As Aimee fights for her life in an Augusta hospital, her fellow students are hoping she recovers quickly.

"To know Amiee's life, to know the life she was full of, to know the state she's in today, is very devastating to us," Lafleur said.

"Despite the fact that medical evidence says she should be dead, she isn't. I think that's what makes it so precious to so many people to see how amazing she really is," University of West Georgia professor Chris Aanstoos said.

Staff and students at Thursday's vigil said they are encouraged Aimee is having better days.

"I feel wonderful that she's enjoying her music and responding to her family and knows that we all love her and getting an idea of the outreach. It's awesome," student Lee Phether said.

"She really is a spirit that inspires no question about it," Aanstoos said.

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