On a Tuesday, Aimee Copeland fell from a zip line and cut her leg.

By Friday her limb had been amputated and she was fighting for life.

The 24-year-old US university student is battling a rare flesh-eating bacterial infection called necrotising fasciitis, which destroys tissue and muscle while the surface of the wound appears to be healing.

Aimee Copeland ... ice cream is the first thing she wants when she is able to eat again.
Aimee Copeland … in a critical condition.

Ms Copeland was kayaking near the Little Tallapoosa River in Georgia on May 1, and went for a ride on a homemade zip line, otherwise known as a flying fox, which snapped, the LA Times reported.

Her father Andy Copeland wrote on a blog that his daughter got 22 staples in her left calf and was still in terrible pain the next day.

The pain got worse until she was diagnosed with the infection, forcing surgeons to amputate her leg and remove infected tissue from her abdomen.

Victim of a flesh-eating infection ... Paige Copeland cries as her father Andy Copeland speaks about her sister Aimee.Victim of a flesh-eating infection … Paige Copeland cries as her father Andy Copeland speaks about her sister Aimee. Photo: AP

“We take so much for granted in life, but I never imagined that one of my daughters would face this most unlikely of situations,” Mr Copeland wrote.

Dr William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University Medical School told Reuters the infection was often quite subtle in its early stages.

“These bacteria lodge in the deeper layers of the wound. The organism is deep in the tissues, and that’s where it’s causing its mischief.”

Ms Copeland was in critical condition in the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta yesterday, a hospital spokeswoman told AP.

She will also lose her fingers, but doctors hope to save the palms of her hands so she can use prosthetics one day.

Her family have not yet told her about the exact extent of her injuries, her father wrote.

“She will learn about the loss of her beautiful leg. She will discover that her hands lack the dexterity and tactile response she has known all her life,” he wrote.

“How would you respond in such a situation? I think that moment will be one of horror and depression for Aimee.”

In more recent days Mr Copeland has updated his blog, describing his daughter’s progress as a miracle.

“The words I hear from the medical professionals to describe Aimee’s continued recovery are ‘astonishing’, ‘incredible’, ‘confounding’, ‘mind boggling’ and ‘unbelievable’.

“All those are fitting words. My favourite word is ‘miracle’.

Her parents have learnt to read lips to communicate with their daughter, who cannot speak because of a breathing tube in her throat.

Speaking on NBC’s Today show overnight, Mr Copeland said she told them she was thirsty, and that ice cream was the first thing she wants when she’s able to eat on her own.

“We just take it each day at a time,” he said.

“My daughter’s strong, she really is.” with AP


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