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Flesh-eating disease victim gets prosthetic hands

Published May 18, 2013 7:24 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Atlanta • A metro Atlanta woman who lost both hands, her left leg and right foot after contracting a flesh-eating disease was on her way back from Ohio Friday after being fitted with prosthetic hands.

Aimee Copeland, 25, is returning from Hilliard, Ohio, where she was fitted with a pair of "bionic" hands with 24 programmable functions that will improve her dexterity, her father, Andy, told the Associated Press.

Copeland, of Snellville, contracted a rare infection called necrotizing fasciitis in May 2012 after falling from a zip line and gashing her leg. She spent two months at the Shepherd Center, a rehabilitation clinic in Atlanta, learning to move, eat and bathe without prosthetics.

She spent part of the week at Touch Bionics being fitted for the prosthetic hands that her father says will be controlled by her muscle movements and arm positions.

"All four days she sent us videos of things she could do," Copeland said. "The second day she was moving water between cups. On the third day she was cutting a cucumber. On the fourth day she was doing more typical things, like applying makeup to her face and more personal things."

Copeland said the hands were given to Aimee in exchange for her serving as a Touch Bionics ambassador. He said Aimee is likely to begin looking for a prosthetic leg with a computer-controlled knee joint to allow for more natural movement than a mechanical one.

"I just really look forward to her regaining her confidence about certain things she's been unable to do," Copeland said, "Really I just want to see her enjoying life the way that she should."

Among other things, Copeland said, the prosthetic hands will help his daughter learn to prepare meals from scratch, which she enjoyed doing before the amputations.