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Aimee Copeland, Georgia woman with flesh-eating disease, leaves hospital after two-month battle

12:42 PM, Jul 2, 2012   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Aimee Copeland, the Georgia woman with a rare flesh-eating infection, has left the hospital after nearly two months and is headed for inpatient rehabilitation.

Copeland was released Monday from Doctors Hospital in Augusta. The 24-year-old psychology graduate student at the University of West Georgia will spend the next several weeks learning to move with the aid of a wheelchair after having her left leg, right foot and both hands amputated.

Copeland contracted the rare infection after she suffered a deep cut falling from a broken zip-line May 1 along the Tallapoosa River. Aeromonas hydrophila bacteria - that's found in warm, brackish waters - entered the cut, leading to infection. The bacterial infection emits toxins that cut off blood flow to parts of the body, destroying muscles, fat and skin tissue.

Copeland's speedy recovery has defied doctors' initial prognosis. Her father says they at first gave her just a slim chance of surviving. She spent weeks sedated and using a respirator while undergoing amputations and painful skin grafts to replace infected skin.

It was a bittersweet farewell for Copeland, said her father Andy Copeland in an interview with The Associated Press.

"She hated to see a lot of people she loves, to say goodbye," her father said. "The sweet is that she is moving on to the next phase."

Copeland's mother arrived at the hospital early to help her get ready for the big day and did her makeup for her, her father said.

A week ago, hospital officials upgraded Copeland's condition from serious to good. Her parents last weekend were able to take her outside the hospital's doors in her wheelchair - her first time outdoors since she arrived at the hospital in May.

Last week, Copeland's father declined to say where her rehabilitation treatment will take place, but mentioned the first two months will deal with learning to move just her amputated limbs - as in shifting from her bed to her wheelchair.

After that, Copeland will move on to another round of therapy in which she'll learn to use prosthetic limbs. Meanwhile, Copeland hopes to use any spare time to complete her master's thesis at the University of West Georgia, where she hopes to obtain a degree by December.

"She's a very determined young lady," her father said. "When she sets her mind to something, she achieves it."

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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