Aimee Copeland, 24, of Gwinnett County was injured May 1 when she fell from a zip line into the Little Tallapoosa River. The fall onto rocks caused a deep gash in her leg.
A week later, Copeland has had her leg amputated, has gone into cardiac arrest twice and her organs were failing.
On Friday, she was diagnosed with “necrotizing fasciitis” in her damaged leg, said Gary Duke, her employer at Sunnyside Cafe in Carrollton where Aimee worked as a waitress. Fasciitis is a flesh-eating bacteria that can destroy skin and muscle.
Duke said Tuesday night that her outlook was dire.
“But there’s always a chance for a miracle,” he said.
Her father, Andy Copeland, said in a Facebook posting that doctors said her chances were “slim to none.”
Duke described Aimee as a “bright, optimistic sunshine of a young lady” who was just finishing up her master’s program at UWG. She had an undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Georgia.
Duke said the accident occurred while Aimee and some friends were at a zip line behind the home of one of the friends.
“She said, ‘I want to do it one more time,’ ” Duke said. But she fell from the line into the river and hit some rocks.
Duke said it’s not clear why she fell, but said it was apparently not an equipment problem.
An ambulance was called and Aimee was taken to Tanner Medical Center, where she received 22 staples to close her injured leg and then sent home.
“The next day she started having really excrutiating pain,” Duke said. “They gave her pain pills, bur really no more extensive treatment on Wednesday.”
On Thursday, he said, her condition became more serious as the flesh-eating bacteria began to spread.
“She got worse and worse,” Duke said. “Friday morning she went back to the ER looking really pale with a high fever. They rushed her to surgery, and found that some of the muscle in that leg had already died. They proceeded to remove some of the bad tissue, but she cardiac arrested on the table.”
Doctors were able to stabilize Aimee Friday night and she was flown to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta.
“Almost immediately after arriving at Augusta, they made the decision to remove her leg,” Duke said. “They called me, they wanted someone to know they were going to take her leg off. She has been very unstable since then.”
She has suffered renal failure and gone into cardiac arrest a second time.
“Everybody in the state is praying for her,” Duke said.
He said he has met with the Red Cross and a blood drive is planned for May 15 on the UWG campus, and that two concerts are being arranged to raise funds. Money is being collected at Sunnyside, and donations can be made by writing a check to Aimee’s Fund at United Community Bank.