Posted: 5:42 p.m. Tuesday, May 8, 2012

West Georgia student fighting flesh-eating bacteria

Aimee Copeland
Aimee Copeland

By Manuel Bojorquez

CARROLLTON, Ga. —

A University of West Georgia graduate student is in critical condition, fighting off a flesh-eating bacteria which has already forced doctors to amputate her leg.

Aimee Copeland, 24, became ill after suffering a fall from a zipline on May 1.

Friends said it was a homemade zipline near a friend's home.

A cut on her leg required staples, but the pain did not stop.

Last Friday, she was rushed to a hospital in Augusta to have her leg removed, up to her hip.

"It's a miracle she made it past Friday night," her father, Andy Copeland, told Channel 2 's Manuel Bojorquez in a phone interview.

Andy Copeland said his daughter somehow contracted a flesh-eating bacteria that had already devoured her leg muscles and started to attack her system.

Days later, she's still having setbacks -- she lost her pulse momentarily Tuesday morning.

"They actually were able to do CPR and resuscitate her very quickly," Andy Copeland said.

Friends and co-workers at the Sunnyside Cafe in Carrollton, where Aimee works, are now working together to help the Copelands.

"She was awesome, just great ... just really awesome to be around," Kara Dermo said.

Copeland is well-known at the restaurant and in the community.

She was completing a master's degree in psychology and had organized festivals and activities around town, friends say.

"She planned to go to work helping troubled youth," Sunnyside cafe owner Gary Duke said.

"Then all the sudden, this devastating accident," Duke said.

Andy Copeland is updating friends and family about his daughter's condition on a blog.

In his writings and during the phone interview, he asked for prayers.

"The bottom line is I want people to think positive. I want people to pray positive. I want them to ask God for a miracle," he said.

In addition to prayers, friends have established Aimee's Fund at United Community Bank for donations.

They're also planning to hold a blood drive through the Sheperd Community blood bank, at the gym of the University of West Georgia from 2 to 7 p.m. next Tuesday.

Andy Copeland hopes they all come with a positive attitude.

"I don't want people with long faces right now because we already had a miracle Friday night when she survived," he said. "I just believe we have to stay positive right now to honor Aimee."

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