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Flesh-eating bacteria victim in 'high spirits' in rehab

Aimee Copeland, the Georgia graduate student infected with flesh-eating bacteria, is finally out of the hospital and has now started rehab at a facility in the Atlanta area. Photos shot on the day she left show a smiling Aimee being wheeled up to the ambulance and riding with her family.“She was in high spirits,” Aimee’s mom, Donna Copeland, told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie Tuesday. “She co

Aimee Copeland, the Georgia graduate student infected with flesh-eating bacteria, is finally out of the hospital and has now started rehab at a facility in the Atlanta area. Photos shot on the day she left show a smiling Aimee being wheeled up to the ambulance and riding with her family.

“She was in high spirits,” Aimee’s mom, Donna Copeland, told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie Tuesday. “She couldn’t wait to get there and to get started. She is just so motivated.”

The 24-year-old’s recovery is something her family could not have imagined even a month ago.

“Everything about this is just amazing to me,” her dad, Andy Copeland, told TODAY. “Her recovery is remarkable for three reasons: number one, it’s God’s will; number 2, it’s her will; and number 3, I believe it’s the wonderful care that she had there at the hospital.”

Aimee had been confined to the hospital’s 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.

Aimee’s family expects her rehab to last six to eight weeks. She’s got a lot of ground to cover in that time.

“It’s amazing the things we take for granted in our lives,” Andy Copeland told TODAY. “The ability to get up and go fix a cup of coffee and come sit back down again. But she basically has to just relearn that ability.”

While Aimee works at her rehab, her family will be building an extra wing on their house so things will be easier for her when she gets home. Several contractors in their town of Snellville, Ga. have already volunteered their services.

In the meantime, Andy Copeland says his daughter is in good spirits and is ready to face the challenges ahead.

“Her self-made goal is to actually be able to graduate and walk – literally – in December to complete her degree… I would not be surprised in the least to see her achieve it.”

Aimee continues to cope with considerable “phantom” pains.

“She is still having a lot of pain,” her mother told TODAY. “But I believe the rehab they’re going to do, [they’re going to] try some other methods with her and adjust some of her drugs that she’s taking. I think that’s going to help her a whole lot.”

Aimee’s courage and determination have inspired many people to help with her rehabilitation costs.  A race in Augusta helped raise money for her medical expenses.

“Our goal is to be able to help her with her prosthetics,” said Kerri Hodnick, the organizer of the race. “We just found out that just one of her legs was going to be $85,000.”

Other supporters picked and sold sunflowers near Atlanta to help raise money for Aimee.

“It’s a bad thing that happened to her, but it’s good to feel that we can help her out,” Hannah Craig, one of the volunteers, told TODAY.

The struggle has also brought the Copeland family closer.

“We all deal with the emotional aspect every day,” Andy Copeland said. “She’s going to continue to need our support .... There’s nothing right now that’s more important than the health and well being of our daughter, Aimee.”

More on Aimee Copeland:

Aimee Copeland leaves hospital, headed to rehab

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