Flesh-eating bacteria victim Aimee Copeland struggles with phantom pains

Aimee Copeland, 24, is fighting for her life at JMS Burn Center in Augusta, her father Andy said on Facebook.
aimee copeland, necrotizing fasciitis, flesh-eating bacteria

(CBS News) Aimee Copeland "struggled mightily" this past week as she recovers from the flesh-eating infection necrotizing fasciitis, her father wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.

Andy Copeland wrote that though his daughter's condition has improved significantly, the pain over the past week has been considerable.

Aimee Copeland, battling necrotizing fasciitis, now able to speak
Flesh-eating bacteria victim Aimee Copeland on amputations: "Let's do this"

Aimee is experiencing phantom pain where her hands were amputated, her dad said. Aimee had previously needed her left leg, right foot and both hands amputated in the time since she had a zip line accident on a Georgia river May 1 where she contracted the flesh-eating Aeromonas hydrophila bacteria in her open wound.

Phantom pain is a phenomenon that occurs in amputated limbs caused by sensations that originate in the brain and spinal cord. According to the Mayo Clinic, areas of the brain and spinal cord lose input from the missing limb and adjust unpredictably, causing pain.

Andy said his daughter described the pain as if she was "carrying a bag of rocks," a similar sensation to when her fingers had necrotized and her hands were puffy and purple.

"Nothing really helps her pain much," he wrote. "Some of the pain medication makes her sick to her stomach and she winds up vomiting. Like I said, she has struggled mightily."

Her dad said the pain has also caused Aimee to lash out at caregivers, but but by last Thursday she came full circle.

"She knew that many things were beyond her control and that fighting those who cared for her was not the solution," he wrote. After praying and meditating she became at peace, and was back to her "normal sweet self" by Friday.

Andy also mentioned several improvements in Aimee's overall medical condition. She's been off the ventilator for two weeks, she's gone from needing 16 IV tubes in her body to only two, she's had her tracheotomy - which had assisted her breathing -removed and the hole should close up soon. She still needs to undergo debridement procedures to remove more damaged tissue before doctors can begin performing skin grafts to replace the tissue.

"Considering that Aimee was once the 'sickest person in ICU', according to one doctor, she has come a long way," Andy wrote.

Andy also described messages he's received from people around the country who were inspired by Aimee's battle and turned around their own troubles after putting them in perspective.

He's heard from people who were depressed or had made past mistakes who were inspired by Aimee to try and turn their struggles around. One man approached Andy in tears telling him that his son had been devastated by a torn ACL that might derail his football career, but once he learned of Aimee he said, "Here I am complaining about my knee when Aimee has lost her leg."

"He said his son's attitude change helped to strengthen his resolve and pushed him harder in his efforts to rehab his injured knee," Andy wrote. "I think that's awesome."