by LIZ MARCHESE Staff Writer
Aimee Copeland, a 24-year-old graduate student from Georgia, has been battling Necrotizing Fasciitis, a flesh-eating virus, for the past few weeks by keeping a positive attitude and continuously fighting against the disease. Copeland was infected with the disease on May 1 after she fell from a homemade zip line over a Georgia river. The fall opened a huge gash in her leg that allowed the flesh-eating bacteria, Aeromanos hydrophila, to enter the wound. It is usually rare for flesh-eating viruses to happen to humans, but once the bacteria enters the bloodstream, it starts to destroy all of the healthy tissue. “Many other bacteria – especially those that thrive in oxygen-deprived environments, like inside the human body – can also cause necrotizing fasciitis,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Doctors have to act quickly in order to get rid of the virus and prevent it from spreading to other areas in the body. They have to cut out healthy and unhealthy tissue that is in the body and check over the area again to make sure that the infection has not spread. When Copeland was told that the virus was causing her to have both her feet and her fingers amputated she remained calm and accepted it. “She shed no tears, she never batted an eyelash. I was crying because I am a proud father of an incredibly courageous young lady,” says Andy Copeland. The doctors thought it was best for Copeland to have her fingers amputated because she was at risk of another infection. The poor blood flow in her hands could cause infection, which would make her even sicker. Doctors might see Copeland as just another case of the virus, but people across the United States see her as an inspiration. People saw her as a symbol of hope because she refuses to stop fighting against the disease. “I think Aimee Copeland is a really strong girl and I admire that she doesn’t want to give up no matter how hard things will get for her. I hope one day I can be as strong as she is,” says freshman Kirsten Pasedwalt. Her father even started a blog, updating people about his daughter’s current condition. The family also has a Facebook page with nearly 49,000 subscribers. “Every three or four years this happens, where a case will take off in the media,” says co-founder of the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation, Jacqueline Roemmele. Copeland’s case has also given the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation an increase in donations. People are becoming more informed of the dangers of the deadly disease. “I can’t even imagine what Aimee is going through, but I think she’s very brave. I just hope that one day I’m never given a disease like this because I don’t think I can be as strong as her,” says freshman Olivia Fasano.