Flesh-Eating Bacteria Victim Refused Pain Meds During Skin Graft (And No, She’s Not Crazy)

Aimee Copeland, the woman who contracted a flesh-eating bacteria in a May zipline accident, recently refused pain medication during a skin graft procedure. As a result of her necrotizing fasciitis, she’s had both of her hands, her right foot and her left leg amputated, but the graduate student, who believes in practices like meditation to manage pain, was hesitant to accept drugs like morphine.aimee copeland flesh eating bacteria

Aimee’s father, Andy Copeland, wrote on his blog:

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. … I know the pain was significant, but Aimee’s courage is greater.

Apparently, morphine had been making Aimee, who is 24, groggy and confused, so she chose to meditate rather than receive pain meds during her painful wound dressing changes. She’s also been experiencing “phantom pain” in her amputated hands.

Most people in Aimee’s situation wouldn’t think twice about a decision to use pain medication. And while I’m inwardly wincing at the fact that Aimee chose not to use pain medication during a skin graft (I can’t even imagine the amount of ouch that entails), I respect her desire to wield a little bit of control over her body after such a devastating experience.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose a good portion of your body and be confined to a hospital bed, trying to process the fact that the active, healthy life you once led is effectively over. Aimee is probably getting used to her “new normal,” and it doesn’t surprise me that she wanted to remain true to her older convictions, to bring part of her old ideals into her new life, post-fasciitis. She’s incredibly brave.

Andy Copeland has since updated his blog saying that his daughter is now accepting pain medication, especially as the procedures to keep her alive become more complicated; sometimes the available drugs can’t even completely dull the pain associated with her medical care. There is some good news, though, as her condition was recently upgraded from critical to serious, and she can now breathe and eat on her own. It seems like she’s receiving top-notch medical care and has lots of support from her family and the general public. The next step for Aimee is to continue receiving skin grafts to help heal her abdomen, and she’ll eventually to learn to work with prosthetics.

Photo: aimeecopeland.com

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    • Stephanie

      11 years later after one of my massage clients survived this horrible illness, he is living life to the fullest in spite of the physical and emotional scars. It is amazing that Aimee is surviving and managing to maintain some semblance of self through this difficult time. Aimee, I wish you better days to come and when you are ready massage is a great way to manage scars and pain!