Ga. woman who had flesh-eating illness tells story

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NEW YORK (AP) - A Georgia woman who survived a rare fleshing-eating disease told Katie Couric on Tuesday that she doesn’t take life for granted anymore.

Aimee Copeland, a 24-year-old University of West Georgia graduate student, walked onto stage Tuesday on Couric’s new show, “Katie,” using a walker she’d gotten just five days earlier and a prosthetic leg. As she made her way slowly across the stage to a chair, Couric and the studio audience stood and applauded.

“You did it,” Couric said as she bent down to hug Copeland as she sat in the chair. “That was a beautiful sight to see, Aimee Copeland.”

“It felt pretty good, too,” Copeland said, flashing a giant grin.

Aimee Copeland contracted the rare infection, called necrotizing fasciitis, in May after falling from a zip line and gashing her leg. Early on, she was fighting for her life, with doctors uncertain she would survive.

The disease forced doctors to amputate both of her hands, her left leg and her right foot. She spent two months this summer at the Shepherd Center, a rehabilitation clinic in Atlanta, learning to move, eat and bathe without prosthetics.

She has been fitted with prosthetics for her right leg and will be fitted for one for her left leg, which is still sore and tender from skin grafts, she said. She also has hooks she can use as hands and prosthetic wheelchair arms to help her get around, but she said she likes to do as much as she can with the remains of her limbs.

Though her recovery was long and difficult, Copeland said she never felt like giving up. Now she even wants to learn to drive again.

“I love life,” she said. “It’s a beautiful thing. It’s something I don’t take for granted anymore.”

Despite the struggles she faces every day, Copeland said she doesn’t like to think of herself as disabled or handicapped.

“Instead of saying I’m disabled, I just say I have different abilities,” she said.

Copeland was joined in New York by her parents and her older sister. Her mother, Donna, said she draws inspiration from her daughter.

“She’s strong so we have to be just as strong for her,” Donna Copeland said.

Couric also had a surprise for Copeland to help her accomplish her goal of learning to drive again.

Couric told Copeland that an Atlanta area Chevrolet dealer was in the studio and planned to donate a new minivan to Aimee that will be retrofitted so she can drive it. He said he wanted her to get a chance to be a normal 24-year-old.

“I’ve been so blessed by the kindness of complete strangers,” Copeland said. “I don’t know what to say; I’m speechless.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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