June 26, 2012 at 8:47 AM ET
UPDATED 7:30 p.m ET: A Georgia woman battling a rare, flesh-eating disease is preparing to be released from the hospital after nearly two months.
Aimee Copeland's father told The Associated Press on Tuesday his 24-year-old daughter plans to transfer Monday from Doctors Hospital in Augusta to an inpatient rehabilitation center. Andy Copeland says she will spend several weeks there learning to move herself after having her left leg, right foot and both hands amputated.
Original story: In a major milestone, Aimee Copeland, the Georgia graduate student struck by flesh-eating bacteria, was able to leave her hospital room for the first time in 49 days for a brief wheelchair ride around the grounds. Doctors have upgraded her condition from serious to good. For a patient with multiple amputations, it's a huge advance.
A hospital photographer caught the moment in a photo showing Aimee in the wheelchair flanked by her mother and father.
“I strolled her around the perimeter of the parking lot,” Andy Copeland told TODAY. “The first thing I showed her was the helipad. I said this is where you came in first. The helicopter landed here.”
Aimee has been confined to the intensive care unit since May when a wound she sustained in a zip-lining accident developed necrotizing faciitis, the clinical name for flesh-eating bacteria.
To save her life doctors had to amputate her left leg, right foot and both hands.
It’s been tough for Aimee’s family has to watch her struggle with the pain from the amputations and the skin grafts that followed. But things have finally started to turn around.
“She was critical for a long time, but then they upgraded her,” Andy told TODAY.
The stroll around the hospital was heartening for both Aimee and her family.
“She just enjoyed the sunshine on her face and the breezes blowing through her hair and the smell of pine trees was really close by,” Andy told TODAY. “And she just sat there and just took it all in.”
Andy believes that the well-wishes and prayers of Americans have somehow helped his daughter recover.
“I don’t believe she’d be where she is today without the prayer, love, and support of millions of people across this country,” Andy told TODAY. “We’ve seen a miracle performed right before our very eyes.” Her father has chronicled her recovery in a blog, Aimeecopeland.com.
Doctors have been surprised at how well Aimee has recovered. Andy told TODAY that his daughter might even come home as early as next week.