Flesh-eating bacteria victim Aimee Copeland on amputations: "Let's do this"
(CBS News) Aimee Copeland was told that she will have her hands and remaining foot amputated, complications from blood vessels dying after a two-week battle with the flesh-eating infection necrotizing fasciitis, her father wrote on Facebook Friday.
Her response? "Let's do this."
Her father Andy has been updating a blog on a University of Georgia psychology department's student website ever since Aimee was hospitalized with necrotizing fasciitis. She suffered a deep gash in her leg after falling May 1 from a homemade zip line over a Georgia river, and the flesh-eating bacteria, Aeromonas hydrophila, entered the wound.
Ken Lewis, one of the operators of that blog, told CBS News the family recently gained control of a Facebook page with over 49,000 followers set up by someone else. That is where Andy updated the world on his daughter's condition Friday morning.
In the post, Andy said that on Wednesday doctors suggested Aimee have the breathing tube removed and that she get a tracheotomy, a procedure in which an incision is made into the neck and a tube is inserted to open an airway, allowing a person to breathe. Andy said the flesh wounds on her abdomen had been making it hard for Aimee to take deep breaths, and the "trache will make it easier for us to read her lips."
"She hated the throat tube anyway (so did I)," he wrote. "Her respiratory therapy will also take a huge leap up in quality."
He also wrote that on Wednesday Aimee was approved for hyperbaric treatments - she was scheduled for 10 - that will help her regain blood flow in her hands, but unfortunately her fingers are beyond saving. Early sessions had turned her hands from a purplish color to a reddish flesh tone.
But on Thursday, doctors said Aimee would not go to the chamber and they wanted to talk to Andy about her hands and remaining foot.
"The doctor explained that her body was trying hard to heal her hands, but the blood flow was too poor. There was an added risk of infection. The palm of her right hand had developed a sore. Today her hands had returned to their splotchy purplish coloration and they were actually hampering Aimee's recovery," he wrote.
The doctors were worried that if Aimee developed breathing problems and her hands released an infection into her body, she could become septic.
"We had to do what is necessary to save Aimee's life," Andy wrote. He recounted the conversation that took place over the next 30 minutes when he told Aimee about her hands.
She "shed no tears, she never batted an eyelash. I was crying because I am a proud father of an incredibly courageous young lady," Copeland wrote. He said he was finally able to tell his daughter Thursday what had happened since the incident on the river, and how her left leg was amputated, and the outpouring of love she's gotten from the public.
"We told her that the world loved and admired her," he wrote in Friday's update. "We explained that she had become a symbol of hope, love and faith."
"Aimee's eyes widened and her jaw dropped," he wrote. "She was amazed."
Then, Copeland took his daughter's hands and held them up to her face. She did not draw back, he said.
Andy said he told her, "Aimee, I do not want anything to happen to you. Your mind is beautiful, your heart is good and your spirit is strong. These hands can prevent your recovery from moving forward. The doctors want to amputate them and your foot today to assure your best possible chance of survival."
Aimee mouthed that she was confused "but I'll figure it out," her sister determined, and the family told her she'd be fitted with prosthetics. She nodded approvingly, raised her hands up, and mouthed three words the whole family understood: "Let's do this."
"A tear rolled down my face as I walked out of her room," Andy wrote. "I wasn't crying because Aimee was going to lose her hands and foot, I was crying because, in all my 53 years of existence, I have never seen such a strong display of courage."
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