Flesh-Eating Bacteria Survivor Uses Bionic Hands


Aimee Copeland (Photo credit: Aaron Brodie/CNN)

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By Michael Martinez, CNN

(CNN) — Flesh-eating bacteria amputee Aimee Copeland now uses the latest technology in prosthetic hands to chop vegetables, pick up tiny items like Skittles, and comb and iron press her hair.

With the bionic hands, Copeland is looking forward to cleaning her house — she’s a neat freak, she tells CNN — and cooking her own food. She’s something of a foodie but has been able to eat only microwaveable foods, she adds.

“I really want to be able to get back in the kitchen and start cooking some delicious vegetarian meals for myself,” she said as she used the hands in a demonstration for media outlets this week.

“It just mimics so well a natural hand that it really just reminds me of before the accident, how I would have done things,” she added. “I never thought I would actually be able to hold a knife and cut something. That’s just incredible.”

The “i-limb ultra revolution” hands can cost up to $120,000 each, said a spokesman for manufacturer Touch Bionics. Copeland demonstrated the prosthetic hands at the firm’s office in Hilliard, Ohio, showing how hand positions can also be remotely set with an iPad application using a blue-tooth connection. The “bioism” software can also be downloaded to an iPhone and iPod, the spokesman said.

On May 1, 2012, Copeland, a University of West Georgia graduate student, was outdoors with friends at the Little Tallapoosa River, about 50 miles west of Atlanta when the homemade zip line she was holding snapped. She fell and got a gash in her leg that required 22 staples to close.

Three days later, still in pain, she went to an emergency room, and doctors eventually determined she had necrotizing fasciitis caused by the flesh-devouring bacteria Aeromonas hydrophila.

Doctors performed amputations to save her life.

She lost parts of all limbs: her hands, a leg and a foot.

After the surgery, her family home in Snellville, just east of Atlanta, added a 1,956-square-foot “Aimee’s Wing,” donated by a builder.

In other upcoming milestones, Copeland, whose story raised the nation’s awareness of flesh-eating bacteria, will receive a service dog this summer, when she will work with amputee children in a wilderness camp.

She is hoping to receive a prosthetic leg later this year as well. Walking will be a dream come true, she said.

Copeland is working to complete her master’s degree before the end of the year.

CNN’s Aaron Brodie and Michael Kane contributed to this report.

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