Aimee Copeland

Ga. woman fighting flesh-eating bacteria speaks for the first time

May 29, 2012 at 12:18 PM ET

Aimee Copeland's father says the family's next step is to get her strong enough to leave the ICU.

The young Georgia woman fighting a rare flesh-eating bacteria has spoken for the first time in weeks, according to NBC News in Augusta.

The 24-year-old graduate student's father, Andy Copeland, told NBC's WAGT that Aimee spoke on Sunday. "The first thing that she said was, 'woah.' She said, 'wow, this is amazing.' She was shocked to hear her own voice."

Aimee has been battling necrotizing fasciitis -- a bacterial infection that can destroy muscles, skin and tissue -- since cutting her leg on a homemade zipline on May 1. Surgeons amputated her left leg at the hip, her hands and remaining foot. She remains in critical condition but has been breathing on her own since being removed from a ventilator. Last week she was able to sit up in a chair.

Her first words are another important milestone in her difficult recovery.

Related: Mom with flesh-eating disease had seven operations

"I would say her existence, her life, is a miracle," Copeland told NBC. "Because when she arrived over at Doctor's Hospital, she basically had a less than 1 percent chance of survival."

Her father has been recording her progress in a blog. The family's next hope is for Aimee to recover enough to leave the ICU.

A 1996 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were 500 to 1,500 cases of necrotizing fasciitis annually in the United States, with about 20 percent of them fatal. The National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation has said that estimate is probably low.

Reuters contributed to this report

 Related:

Video: New case of flesh-eating bacteria in Ga.

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