Aimee Copeland Leaves Hospital After Battling Flesh-Eating Disease

PHOTO: Aimee Copeland, right, is seen on July 2, 2012, leaving the Augusta, Ga., hospital where she spent 49 days recovering from a flesh-eating bacterial infection and the loss of her left leg, right foot and hands.
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Aimee Copeland, the Georgia grad student who lost her left leg, right foot and hands to flesh-eating disease, has left the Augusta hospital that saved her life.

It's been two months since Copeland cut open her calf in a fall from a homemade zip line near the Little Tallapoosa River, inviting the deadly infection that landed her in critical condition. Now, after a touch-and-go recovery, the 24-year-old sets her sights on rehabilitation.

"She's a very determined young lady," Copeland's father, Andy Copeland, told the Associated Press. "When she sets her mind to something, she achieves it."

Copeland is en route to a private rehabilitation facility, where she will learn to use a wheelchair and, eventually, prosthetic limbs. Her family, who lives in Snellville, Ga., has decided to keep the location of the facility private. But a spokeswoman for Doctors Hospital of August said it's "closer to home."

Andy Copeland said his daughter's departure from Augusta was bittersweet.

"She hated to see a lot of people she loves, to say goodbye," he told the AP. "The sweet is that she is moving on to the next phase."

The next phase will involve months of intense rehab, according to Dr. Alberto Esquenazi, chief medical officer of MossRehab in Philadelphia.

"The first step is to provide patients with self independence," said Esquenazi, who is also the chairman of physical medicine and rehabilitation at MossRehab Regional Amputee Center. "Right now, someone has to feed her, help her with hygiene, turn on lights, open doors. ... But some simple devices can help her do these things herself."

Copeland will learn to use a wheelchair until her body is strong enough to tolerate prosthetics.

"That should gain enough time for her to heal," Esquenazi said, describing how damaged skin is more sensitive to the pressure caused by artificial limbs. "Six months after the amputations, she should be ready for permanent prosthetics."

Rehabilitation will be long and difficult, but Esquenazi said Copeland has what it takes.

"She has the advantage that she's a young woman, and from what I understand a very determined young woman," he said. "She also appears to have a very supportive environment, between her family, her friends and her community."

Andy Copeland said his daughter is up for the challenge.

"And she feels the challenge will create a tremendous opportunity not just for her to learn more and to gain more from this but to learn more that she can use to help others along the way," he told "Good Morning America."

Copeland plans to graduate from the University of West Georgia this year, finishing that thesis as her own and best case study.

"She wants to be able to walk and get her master's degree in December," Andy Copeland said. "And you heard the word right -- 'walk.' That's what she intends to do."

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