Honoring Aimee Copeland: Turnout steady at blood drive
By ALEX MCRAE
For the past month, Aimee Copeland’s courageous battle against a deadly, flesh-eating bacteria has held the world’s attention and captured the hearts of friends and family in Georgia, where she lived and attended school at the University of West Georgia.
While Aimee recovers in an Augusta, Ga., hospital, friends, supporters and total strangers have supported numerous efforts to raise funds for Aimee and others fighting life-threatening diseases.
The blood drive was organized by brothers Cory and Kevin Tanner and their mother, Amy Finocchiaro. The Coweta family owned a rental home in Carrollton, and Copeland rented a room from them while attending the University of West Georgia.
Amy Finocchiaro said after she saw the success of blood drives in Carrollton and Aimee’s hometown of Snellville, she felt she needed to do something in Coweta.
“She’s such a great young woman and and so full of life and we all loved her,” Amy Finocchiaro said. “I thought a blood drive was a good idea and here we are.”
Finocchiaro and friends started by finding a place to hold the Coweta drive and were grateful when Heritage Christian offered their facility.
“We are so thankful that Heritage Christian agreed to help us,” Finocchario said.
Organizers sent out email messages, advertised on websites, asked friends to spread the word and did everything they could think of to raise awareness about the drive.
“We are encouraged by the response and think we’re going to have a great day,” Finocchiaro said as the event was getting under way Friday afternoon.
Finocchiaro said Amy was “very energetic and fun and just great to be around. She loved herbs and vegetables, and we even built a little garden spot for her at the house.” Finoccchiaro said her sons accompanied Aimee on some of her hikes.
Early turnout at the event — which was scheduled from 2 to 7 p.m. — was steady and even drew a donor who went out of his way to make the effort.
Bob McGinnis lives in Douglas County but works in Warner Robins. He said when he heard about the Coweta blood drive, he decided to make a detour on his way home to Douglasville Friday to make a donation.
“I have a 26-year-old daughter who’s healthy,” McGinnis said. “This could have happened to her. It’s important to me.”
McGinnis is also an avid outdoorsman who planned to go mountain biking over the weekend. He said anyone who is injured in any way needs to take wound care seriously.
“You need to pay attention,” he said.
Copeland, a graduate student in psychology at the University of West Georgia, contracted the rare infection days after she suffered a deep cut May 1 when a zip line snapped over rocks in the Little Tallapoosa River in Carroll County, dropping her into the water and causing a gash on her leg.
Doctors at the local emergency room in Carrollton closed the wound with nearly two dozen staples, but Copeland developed necrotizing fasciitis. On May 4, she was diagnosed with the rare infection and flown 200 miles to Augusta for treatment by specialists at Doctors Hospital.
Necrotizing fasciitis destroys the victim’s muscles, skin and underlying tissues. A necrotizing soft tissue infection develops when bacteria enters the body, usually through a minor cut or scrape. The bacteria begins to grow and release toxins that kill tissue and affect blood flow to the area. As the tissue dies, the bacteria enters the blood and rapidly spreads throughout the body.
The word “necrotizing” refers to something that causes body tissue to die, and the most effective way to stop its progression is through a battery of antibiotics, drains to the swelling, oxygen therapy, and finally, amputation.
The infection is fatal in almost 25 percent of cases.
According to Associated Press reports, doctors were unable to stop the infection from spreading and, during the course of treatment, were forced to amputate Copeland’s left leg, both hands and her remaining foot.
Friends and relatives say Copeland has remained in good spirits throughout the ordeal.
Earlier this week, Aimee’s father, Andy Copeland, said his daughter “shed no tears, she never batted an eyelash. I was crying because I am a proud father of an incredibly courageous young lady. Her message doesn’t reside in her ability to use her hands, it’s her ability to use her heart and her mind.”
Copeland began breathing on her own early last week and the ventilator was wheeled out of her room on Thursday, the same day she was able to sit up in a chair on her own. She no longer has tubes in her nose and is down to three IVs from an initial 12, her father said.