Andy Copeland talks about his daughter Aimee's progress

7:21 AM, May 25, 2012   |    comments
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Aimee Copeland

UPDATE: Thursday morning Aimee's dad told 11Alive his daughter is tired and resting.  She's had two surgeries in three days, and it's taken a lot out of her, he says.

The family sees her interest in sitting up as a great show of her spirit. The fact she stayed up so long shows her strength. They had to remove her from dialysis to do this (which they do from time to time anyway to test her blood and see how her kidneys are functioning. They are still not functioning well enough to take her off long term.)

The family hopes Aimee will be out of the ICU in three to four weeks. And they are optimistic they can start fitting her for prosthetics and begin therapy in eight weeks. The family doesn't want to get to ahead of itself and be faced with disappointment. Despite the moments of positive progress, Aimee is still very much in critical condition. But they're happy to be able to ponder the timeline, knowing Aimee is on the road to recovery.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- For the first time since she contracted the flesh eating bacteria that has claimed her leg, both hands and her remaining foot, Aimee Copeland has been able to sit up in a chair this week.

RELATED | Special coverage of flesh eating bacteria cases
MORE | Dunwoody mom is a model for Aimee Copeland
ALSO | Blood drive honoring Aimee Copeland June 8

Blogging on Facebook Thursday morning, her father Andy Copeland compared Aimee's dogged determination to that of an Olympic athlete.

"When the doctors set the bar height, she raises it," he blogged. "She is determined to break records and her effort is beyond Olympian."

This week Aimee went a full 24 hours without a ventilator.

"Each breath is a victory. Each heart beat is a cause for celebration," her father blogged.

His complete blog post follows on her progress follows:

I was going to post on my blog on the West Georgia University site and post a link here, but the web administrator there is now in the process of transitioning the web page to a new url, so things are moving a bit slow there. I know everyone wants to know how the past 24 hours have been and I want you to know, so I am going to post the whole thing here. It is long, but it tells the story of May 22 and the night of May 21 quite completely. The blog follows:

Most of us take a break when we get tired. If we are working outside, we rest under a shade tree and quaff down some ice water. Our breathing gradually slows, our heart rate decreases and our body cools. Then it's back to work again.

But what if your breath itself was a major task?

Take away the outdoor setting, remove the shade tree and the ice water, insert a hospital bed and a critically ill young lady. Although she is still critical, this young lady has finally stabilized to the point that she has not needed any ventilator assistance for over twenty-four hours. She is working hard for every breath and the doctors are aiding her by giving her heart medicine that can make it work stronger and better to help her continue to heal her lungs. Each breath is a victory. Each heart beat is a cause for celebration. When she opens her eyes, that is like a ticker tape parade down Broadway. When she mouths words, angelic hosts rejoice.

That is what each moment is like for us.

What helps Aimee more than anything is her continued steadfastness to stay ahead of schedule. When the doctors set the bar height, she raises it. She is determined to break records and her effort is beyond Olympian. Case in point - Yesterday Aimee and her mother shared the following dialogue:

"Hey Aimee, how are you feeling this morning?" Donna asked.

"Fine," Aimee mouthed. "Where's my treat?"

Oops, the treat. Please allow me to digress slightly.

The night before, Aimee slept through most of our visit. We tried talking to her, but she kept her eyes closed and sometimes softly nodded in response to questions. When visiting hour ended, Donna turned to the nurse and said, "I really appreciate everything y'all have done. I'm going to bring a treat for all of you tomorrow night."

I was standing at the door when Donna said this. I had de-gowned and I was waiting on Donna to join me. To my surprise, guess who raised her head up and flashed her saucer-sized eyes? Yep, you guessed it. Not only did Aimee raise her head and survey us with those beautiful eyes, she was mouthing something. I couldn't read her lips and I had de-gowned, so I couldn't get close, but I was concerned. Was she in pain? What could possibly be wrong?

Donna and Nurse Angela translated the movement of Aimee's lips to say, "I want a treat!"

We all roared with laughter. We'd been there all night stroking her hair, rubbing her arm, whispering in her ear and she slept through it all. Mention the word "treat" and it's wakey, wakey time.

Keep in mind that the night visit ends at 9:30pm and by the time you roll out of the parking lot, it's 9:45pm. When you've spent thirteen hours at the hospital, you really don't think about shopping when you leave. Your thoughts are focused on finding a soft pillow on which to lay your head.

Fast forward back to the "Where's my treat?" of Tuesday morning.

"I didn't have a chance to get it honey," Donna replied apologetically.

Aimee nodded understandingly. Her memory appears to be pretty good, if not selective, even in spite of the medication that sometimes makes her forget. Another thing Aimee doesn't forget is her dogged determination.

Donna watched as Aimee mouthed a series of words.

"I want to go out in the hall. Will you take me?"

"In the hall? Where?"

"With the nurse." Aimee mouthed.

"Honey, how am I going to get you out there?"

"Pick me up and carry me!" Aimee was adamant. How hard could it be?

"Honey, you have wires and tubes coming out of your body. I just can't pick you up," Donna explained as a thought flashed through her head. She told Aimee to wait and she walked outside to the nurse.

"Can Aimee sit up in a chair?"

Nurse Rebecca blinked. This development was unexpected. Normally the doctors prescribe "sitting up". Seldom does a patient request it.

"If we're going to do it, this is the best possible time. I will call the doctor," Nurse Rebecca said as she grabbed the phone. This was the best time because the doctors decided to take Aimee off dialysis for a trial run to see how she responded. She was also off of the ventilator. Although the lines running to her body were many, there were fewer to hassle with than there were thirty-six hours prior.

When we returned at noon, guess who was out of bed, sitting up in a chair and beaming from ear-to-ear? Actually, it wasn't as much a beam as it was a grimace.

"I'm hot!" Aimee fussed. Hey, she's earned the privilege to fuss all she wants. She begged me to remove the towel from her legs. She was running a slight temperature, probably from the exertions of getting up into the chair. Nurse Rebecca calmed us and said it was nothing to worry about. She had given Aimee some meds to bring the temperature down.

On Tuesday we had a nice treat for Aimee. Nashville recording artist Corey Durkin had brought his guitar and Aimee was going to get a private concert. Corey, a very talented performer from Connecticut, had penned a tune for Aimee called "Southern Belle" and he had offered to come play it for her. Aimee was not disappointed and neither was anyone else within listening distance. Corey played all his originals, each with nice chord transitions and soft, smooth vocals that enunciated thoughtful lyrics. His first few tunes drew the nurses close and we all responded with applause. The nurses eventually retreated back to their duties, but even then the patients in the neighboring rooms said they enjoyed the musical respite.

Aimee certainly enjoyed it. Just before Corey began his set, he asked Aimee how she was doing.

"They won't let me leave!" Aimee mouthed with her eyebrows raised in dismay. This made us all laugh. I told Aimee to relax. During the first song, she forgot about her temperature, she forgot about her lack of mobility and she settled into a peaceful semi-slumber. Music is like that. Whether we are playing CDs or the iPod shuffle sent by Eddie in Pittsburgh (thanks Eddie, she really loves the tunes and I have another reason to love Pittsburgh, which is one of my favorite cities) the calming effect of music is undeniable and significant.

Before you guitarists start packing your guitars and heading for Augusta, I have to stop you now. I have played guitar for nearly forty years and I am not serenading my daughter in the hospital room. She has a lot of friends who play, but she's heard them play before. I know she loves them and their music, but Corey is a special talent who graciously offered his time and music. I have to add that Aimee loved Corey's tunes. He even added a nice Jack Johnson tune to his impressive original lineup. Great stuff.

When Corey finished with 'Southern Belle', Aimee was fighting to keep her eyes open. It was as if her eyelids had weight/spring attachments. She struggled against the weights as her eyelids slowly descended. When they touched down, the springs bumped them back up and revealed her lovely eyes. This process repeated itself as Aimee desperately fought to maintain her alertness throughout the soothing tune.

When Corey finished, Aimee mouthed off a series of words. Corey looked at me for an interpretation. I caught the words on the first pass.

"Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart!" Aimee's eyes provided the exclamation point. "I really, really appreciate it!"

I told Aimee I had something to give Corey from her and I turned and gave Corey a big hug. Aimee smiled and nodded. She really liked that.

Corey and I floated out of the ICU. Seeing Aimee smile like that did our hearts good. I think Corey now understands the faith, hope and love that we feel as a family. The fact is, Corey is now a part of that circle.

When the doctors put Aimee up in that chair, their expectations were to give her an hour. Five hours later, Aimee decided it was time to lie down. Had she been running an Olympic marathon, I think Aimee would have experienced a record-breaking, gold-medal moment.

I want to conclude by establishing a clear statement of exactly why I am sharing so much about our family values and about Aimee's miraculous healing and her continued recovery. There needs to be no doubt that the blood of Jesus Christ is the foundation of our faith. It is through this faith that Aimee lives today. It also needs to be understood that the power of prayer is at work in our lives and that the prayers of millions have powered Aimee's recovery. I believe that it is my duty as Aimee's father to share our testimony of faith, love and hope and demonstrate through our testimony that God is alive. He provides miracles, but we have to ask for those miracles and have faith that he will intercede for those who appear hopeless. I pray that God's name will be glorified and that His power will be magnified, through which ultimately our blessings will be multiplied.

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