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Aimee Copeland, battling necrotizing fasciitis, now able to speak

aimee copeland, necrotizing fasciitis, flesh-eating bacteria
Aimee Copeland, 24 Facebook

(CBS/AP) AUGUSTA, Ga. - The father of Aimee Copeland, the young Georgia woman battling the flesh-eating disease necrotizing fasciitis, says his daughter has spoken for the first time since she was taken to an Augusta hospital weeks ago for treatment.

PICTURES: Ga. student fights to survive flesh-eating bacterial infection

Writing on his Facebook page, Andy Copeland declared Sunday "Aimee Day," saying: "Our baby can talk."

"Hello. Whoa. Wow, my mind is blown," were Aimee Copeland's first words Sunday morning to her sister and mother, her father said in a phone interview Monday with The Associated Press. Andy Copeland was in church at the time and had to wait until a later visitation time Sunday evening to hear his daughter's voice.

When her father finally got into Copeland's room around 5 p.m. Sunday, he asked her how she felt. He said he was thrilled to hear her respond, "It feels weird being able to talk."

Copeland's voice is weak and raspy, her father said, but she has been joking with family, talking about her life at the hospital and asking what everyone else has been up to.

The 24-year-old University of West Georgia graduate student developed the rare infection after cutting her leg in a May 1 fall from a homemade zip line over a river. Doctors closed the gash with 22 staples, but her condition worsened over the next few days until she was eventually hospitalized and diagnosed with the flesh-eating necrotizing fasciitis.

The bacteria that caused her case was Aeromonas hydrophila, which is typically found in warm brackish waters. Her left leg, other foot and both hands have been amputated.

Her father said that when she was told earlier this month that her hands and remaining foot would need to be amputated, Aimee mouthed, "Let's do this."

Copeland began breathing on her own early last week and the ventilator was wheeled out of her room on Thursday, the same day she was able to sit up in a chair on her own. She no longer has tubes in her nose and is down to three IVs from an initial 12, her father said.

She also is finally able to eat soft foods. On Monday Copeland, who is a vegetarian, asked her mother for veggie sausage, a biscuit, white gravy, a fried egg over easy and fresh fruit.

"She'll probably eat one bite," said Copeland's mother, Donna. "But sure I'm going to make it. What mother wouldn't make it?"

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