AUGUSTA — The father of a Georgia woman fighting a flesh-eating disease says his daughter is now able to breathe on her own, a milestone that sent the family's spirits soaring.
Aimee Copeland is now focused on taking each breath without the aid of a ventilator, which will help her lungs recover, her father Andy Copeland said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press.
Andy Copeland said her hands were amputated Thursday because they'd turned into purple "poison bags." But he said she's maintained her positive outlook since the amputations. By reading her lips, they heard her mouth the words, "the power of love is undeniable."
In his blog Sunday night, her father shared the latest on her condition: "She's cracking jokes, speaking frankly, displaying her usual early morning grumpiness and she has been off of the ventilator for over 10 hours."
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On Monday, he told NBC's Gabe Gutierrez that his daughter had even joked about braiding her hair -- despite her surgery Thursday.
Aimee developed a rare condition, necrotizing fasciitis, after cutting her leg in a May 1 fall from a homemade zip line over a river.
Copeland’s not the only one battling the bacterial infection. A 36-year-old new mother, Lana Kuykendall, underwent a series of operations to remove dead or damaged tissue after contracting the condition, just days after giving birth to twins. She remains in critical condition in Greenville, S.C.
In addition, a Cartersville, Ga., landscaper, Bobby Vaughn, is recovering from five surgeries where doctors removed almost two pounds of infected tissue near his groin.
“I still don't know the extent of this thing; I was told I was close to death,” Vaughn told TODAY Mondayfrom his hospital room. He's being treated at Doctor's Hospital in Augusta -- the same facility where Copeland is recovering.
Vaughn was in "good" condition late Sunday, said Barclay Bishop, a hospital spokesperson.
Experts estimate there are several hundred cases in the U.S. each year, with about 1 in 4 being fatal.
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The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report