Some summertime fun and a cut on her leg. That’s how it all started. In May 2012, Aimee Copeland’s story gained national media attention as she clung to life at Doctor’s Hospital in Augusta, Georgia. Aimee was infected with a flesh eating bacteria that had devoured the soft tissue of her left leg and was creeping into other parts of her body, causing her lungs, heart, and kidneys to fail. The outlook was grim – Aimee had less than a 1% chance of survival.
Three days earlier, 24-year-old graduate student, Aimee Copeland, had finished her waitressing shift at a local breakfast café and drove over to a friend’s house for an afternoon by the river in her friend’s backyard. Sometime that afternoon, Aimee went for a ride on a homemade zip-line when suddenly the line snapped, dropping her onto the jagged rocks below. Although the resulting cut on her calf was painful, no one could anticipate the life-or-death battle in the days to come.
Aimee’s first memory of this traumatic event came two weeks after she was first airlifted to Doctor’s Hospital. Her entire left leg and part of her torso had been removed to keep the infection from spreading any further. Aimee remembers her father lifting both of her hands and showing her the lifeless black appendages that remained. After losing both of her legs, her doctors were asking to amputate her hands and right foot as well. Unable to speak, Aimee recalls mouthing the words, “let’s do this.” Looking back on this moment Aimee reflects, “in a life or death situation, I chose life.”
The reality of her loss didn’t really set in for Aimee until several weeks later when she was moved from the hospital to a rehab center in Atlanta, GA.
I went through a significant period of grieving, where I remember crying all of the time. But as time went on, I began to heal and look at things in a positive light. I was alive! It’s important to realize that the stages of grief are not fixed. I still go through periods of recurring grief. It’s how you respond to it that matters. I embrace these feelings when they come. Then I let these feelings pass and I look to the future.
Aimee is a fiercely independent woman, so losing all four of her limbs was especially challenging for her. She was starting from scratch with basic life skills – things that others take for granted such as preparing food, putting on makeup, styling her hair, and using the bathroom. As a quadruple amputee, Aimee also had to learn to walk again. Rather than being consumed with self-pity, Aimee goes after what she wants and needs to move forward in life. For example, in the months following her accident, Aimee spent countless hours researching the latest advancements in prosthetic technology on websites and clinical journals in order to find the right prostheses for her unique needs. On May 15, 2013, only one year after her near fatal accident, Aimee was fitted with the i-limb revolution on both of her remaining arms. Aimee describes herself as a permanent user of the i-limb because of the tremendous function they provide.
I have picked up walking as a hobby and my goal is to be able to walk a 5K by the end of this year. I can use my i-limb to hold my forearm crutch to support me while walking. Tasks as mundane as picking things off the ground, or being able to scratch the inside of my eye, or remove a piece of hair off my neck…these things were all next to impossible for me. Until I had my i-limbs.
Aimee is a motivated and vibrant young woman with a promising future. Having earned her Master’s degree in psychology one year after her accident, Aimee is now working on her second master’s degree for a license in clinical social work. Her dream is to open a holistic center for people with disabilities and physical differences that still want to be outdoors and connect with nature for deeper healing. Today, one step at a time, this brave young woman is turning tragedy into triumph.