"Aimee Day" can't come soon enough.
That is the holiday --date still to be determined -- Andy Copeland hopes for as his daughterAimee fights off virulent flesh-eating bacteria that turned her lifeupside down in less than two weeks.
Her fight won't be overon Aimee Day. She will likely need dialysis for some time to help herkidneys function, and rehab to adjust to life without her left leg, partof her abdomen and perhaps other body parts that surgeons may stillremove because of her disease.
Still, on that day, the24-year-old University of West Georgia graduate student should be ableto breathe on her own, after medical staff remove a tube now stuck downher throat that is being used to regulate her oxygen level. And herparents and her sister should, again, hear her voice.
"We're going to celebratethat day forever for the rest of your life," Andy Copeland told hisdaughter as she lay heavily medicated in an Augusta, Georgia, hospitalbed. "It's the day that my daughter was delivered from this horrible,horrible disease."
Speaking Sunday on CNN,Andy Copeland didn't go into detail about the latest on his daughter'scondition as she fights for her life beyond saying, "We're holding upvery well here."
Yet, as he's done in regular Facebook posts chronicling the ordeal, Andy Copeland was positive about the future.
"I have every confidence that Aimee will be able to overcome this," he said.
Just last month, she had afull and active life. Aimee was pursuing her master's degree inpsychology, with a focus on eco-psychology -- the idea that harmonizingwith nature can be a powerful tool in ensuring one's psychologicalhealth and vitality.
On May 1, she and somefriends were out near the Little Tallapoosa River, about 50 miles westof Atlanta, when she grabbed onto a homemade zip line, her family hassaid.
That led to a gash in her left calf, and ultimately it took 22 staples to close the wound, according to CNN affiliate WSB.
Athough she didn't knowit at the time, it was because of that cut that Aimee Copelandcontracted the flesh-devouring bacteria, Aeromonas hydrophila.
Dr. Buddy Creech, anassistant professor of pediatric infectious diseases at VanderbiltUniversity, said that Aeromonas hydrophila -- which is "remarkablycommon in the water and in the environment" -- is one of many bacteriathat can cause a flesh-eating process.
"When it gets into thosedeeper tissues, it has a remarkable ability to destroy the tissues thatsurround it in sort of this hunt for nutrition," Creech said. "When itdoes that, those tissues die, and you see the inflammation and theswelling and the destruction that can be very difficult to control."
Most humans are affectedby these bacteria by swallowing them, resulting in diarrhea. AimeeCopeland's case was much more uncommon, in that her wound got "infectedand the infection (ran) wild," explained Creech.
The pain continued forAimee after her accident and, on May 4, a friend took her to anemergency room where she was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis andflown to Augusta for surgery.
She went into cardiac arrest after being removed from the operating table, but was resuscitated, CNN affiliate WGCL reported.
It was then, Andy Copeland recalled on his Facebook page, that he was "told that Aimee might not survive the night."
She did survive, thoughsurgeries cost her the leg and part of her abdomen. A post Saturday on ablog set up by the University of West Georgia psychology departmentsaid more operations are coming: "Aimee will suffer the loss of herfingers, however physicians have hope of bringing life back to the palmsof her hands, which could allow her the muscle control to use helpfulprosthetics."
At one point her lungs"required 100% pure oxygen to be fed to her through a respirator," asthe bacteria ravaged her body, her father wrote. By Sunday, she hadimproved significantly to 33% -- just 12 percentage points shy of 21%,the level of oxygen in air around us.
If and when it gets tothat point, she can be taken off the respirator. And her family can markthat moment, Aimee Day, on their collective calendar to celebrate thisyear and every year after.
For now, Andy Copelandis busy standing by, conversing with medical staff and expressingappreciation for his "amazingly resilient" daughter, as well as for themedical staff, friends and complete strangers who have shown theirsupport.
And the entire family is staying hopeful, fueled in part by the remarkable progress they've seen so far.
"The words I hear fromthe medical professionals to describe Aimee's continued recovery are'astonishing,' 'incredible,' 'confounding,' 'mind-boggling' and'unbelievable,'" Andy Copeland wrote Saturday on Facebook.
"All those are fitting words. My favorite word is 'miracle.'"