Aimee Copeland, a 24-year-old Gwinnett County resident, walked onto stage Tuesday on Couric’s new show, “Katie,” using a walker she’d gotten just five days earlier and a prosthetic leg. As she made her way slowly across the stage to a chair, Couric and the studio audience stood and applauded.
“You did it,” Couric said as she bent down to hug Copeland as she sat in the chair. “That was a beautiful sight to see, Aimee Copeland.”
“It felt pretty good, too,” Copeland said, flashing a giant grin.
Aimee Copeland contracted the rare infection, called necrotizing fasciitis, in May after falling from a zip line into the Little Tallapoosa River and gashing her leg. Early on, she was fighting for her life, with doctors uncertain she would survive.
The disease forced doctors to amputate both of her hands, her left leg and her right foot. She spent two months this summer at the Shepherd Center, a rehabilitation clinic in Atlanta, learning to move, eat and bathe without prosthetics.
She has been fitted with prosthetics for her right leg and will be fitted for one for her left leg, which is still sore and tender from skin grafts, she said. She also has hooks she can use as hands and prosthetic wheelchair arms to help her get around, but she said she likes to do as much as she can with the remains of her limbs.
Though her recovery was long and difficult, Copeland said she never felt like giving up. Now she even wants to learn to drive again.
“I love life,” she said. “It’s a beautiful thing. It’s something I don’t take for granted anymore.”
Despite the struggles she faces every day, Copeland said she doesn’t like to think of herself as disabled or handicapped.
“Instead of saying I’m disabled, I just say I have different abilities,” she said.
Copeland was joined in New York by her parents and her older sister. Her mother, Donna, said she draws inspiration from her daughter.
“She’s strong so we have to be just as strong for her,” Donna Copeland said.
Couric also had a surprise for Copeland to help her accomplish her goal of learning to drive again.
Couric told Copeland that an Atlanta area Chevrolet dealer was in the studio and planned to donate a new minivan to Aimee that will be retrofitted so she can drive it. He said he wanted her to get a chance to be a normal 24-year-old.
“I’ve been so blessed by the kindness of complete strangers,” Copeland said. “I don’t know what to say; I’m speechless.”
Copeland is due to make a public appearance Friday in her hometown of Snellville and at a Sept. 22 motorcycle ride and concert benefit in Villa Rica.
The ride and concert will be held at The Mill amphitheater in downtown Villa Rica. Signup for the ride will begin at 7 a.m. and the 63-mile ride will start at 10 a.m., and feature a full police escort through town. Registration fee for the ride is $20 per bike, plus $10 per passenger. T-shirts will be given to the first 150 riders who register. More than 2,000 riders are expected to participate, according to Ronnies Capes, event organizer.
Copeland is scheduled to appear at The Mill from 4 to 8 p.m. to meet people.
Bands performing in the concert will include Paris Luna, with Barry Waldrep, opening the show; Americana Express, the music group of Gary Duke, Copeland’s employer at Sunnyside Cafe in Carrollton; The Return, a Beatles tribute band; and Ringers Crossroad, a classic rock band.
Additional information about the Villa Rica event is available by calling Capes at 404-569-2169.