Health & Wellness

Aimee Copeland leaves hospital, headed to rehab

By staff

Aimee Copeland, the Georgia woman diagnosed with a rare, flesh-eating disease, was released Monday after a two-month stay at Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta.

However, she will not be going home. According to her father, Andy Copeland, she'll move to an inpatient rehabilitation clinic where she'll spend the next several weeks learning to move herself with the aid of a wheelchair after having her left leg, right foot and both hands amputated.

The 24-year-old Copeland was diagnosed with the devastating infection, called necrotizing fasciitis, after she suffered a deep cut May 1 when she fell from a broken zip-line along Georgia's Tallapoosa River. The bacterial infection emits toxins that cut off blood flow to parts of the body. It can destroy muscle, fat and skin tissue.

Copeland's speedy recovery has defied doctors' initial prognosis. Her father says they at first gave her just a slim chance of surviving. She spent weeks sedated and breathing on a respirator while undergoing amputations and skin grafts to replace large patches of infected skin.

On Sunday, Andy Copeland told TODAY that Aimee was looking forward to leaving the hospital, a "major milestone" for her. "I think you could say that she's looking forward to it to the same degree that a child would look forward to leaving high school and going off to college," he told TODAY.

Recently supporters and friends of Aimee gathered to run a 5K fund-raiser race for the young woman. Jean Law, a woman who made the trip to Augusta from Jacksonville, Fla., told TODAY she had battled a similar infection. "In 24 hours, I was basically dying and I was in septic shock. I lost my fingers and part of my nose and both my legs." Two years later, Law is up and walking, hoping her story comforts Aimee. The fund-raiser raised more than $15,000 for Aimee's rehab, according to TODAY.

Last week doctors upgraded Aimee's condition from serious to good. It was considered a huge advance for a patient with multiple amputations. Her father, Andy, has chronicled her recovery in a blog,

The Associated Press and NBC26 contributed to this report

More on Aimee Copeland:

Flesh-eating bacteria patient enjoys 'sunshine on her face'

Flesh-eating bacteria patient's new woe: Phantom limb pain