Aimee Copeland, Georgia Woman With Flesh-Eating Disease, Refuses Painkillers

By Amir Khan on June 17, 2012 1:31 PM EDT

Aimee Copeland
Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old fighting a flesh-eating bacteria, is refusing to take painkillers during some procedures because of her personal convictions (Photo: AimeeCopeland.com)

Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old fighting a flesh-eating bacteria, is refusing to take painkillers during some procedures because of her personal convictions, her father said on Friday.

Copeland, who is studying holistic medicine at the University of West Georgia, "despises" the use of morphine to treat her pain, her father told the Associated Press, and said her daughter feels like a "traitor to her convictions" when she uses such drugs.

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"Although that drug effectively blocks most of the pain associated with her condition, it makes her groggy and confused," her father wrote in an online update on his daughter's condition. "Part of her master's thesis is focused on holistic pain management techniques and Aimee told me that she feels she is a traitor to her convictions when she uses pharmacological pain management."

Copeland was on a kayaking trip with friends when she got on a homemade zip line on May 1. The line snapped and cut a gash in her left calf that let the rare infection, known as necrotizing fasciitis, into her body.

"The bacteria produce enzymes that can dissolve muscle deep down," Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. and president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, told ABC News. "And because it's so deep, it can be a sneaky infection that's not immediately appreciated by the patient."

Aimee has since had her left leg, right foot and both hands amputated.

"Morphine does nothing to control the phantom sensations in her extremities, in fact, the disorientation she gets from morphine seems to make her meditations less effective, perhaps because her concentration is negatively impacted," her father wrote.

Copeland's condition was upgraded from critical to serious on Tuesday, which her father called "a major victory that cannot and should not be diminished," after her first successful skin graft.

"The area of her wound, which I saw for the first time on Sunday during a dressing change, is massive," her father wrote in the update. "The nurse who completed Aimee's dressing change was astonished at Aimee's insistence to avoid morphine during the procedure, as was her mother and I. I know the pain was significant, but Aimee's courage is greater."

In the past few weeks, Copeland has made several strides, according to the Associated Press. She is breathing on her own and no longer needs dialysis. She can eat on her own and all her major organs are functioning. However, she is still receiving supplemental nutrition through a feeding tube.

No word on what other procedures are planned for her.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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