ABC News(NEW YORK) — Aimee Copeland’s story is that of resilience.
The disabilities advocate appeared on ABC News’ Good Morning America Wednesday to share her remarkable journey of regaining independence as a quadruple amputee.
“I think compassion was a huge part of my healing,” Copeland told GMA. “Working with organizations like ‘Friends of Disabled Adults and Children,’ seeing little kids who were in wheelchairs. When you’re helping others, you’re not focused on yourself. You’re not focused on what you’re lacking.”
“It makes you grateful and it makes you pass on that gratitude to others so I strongly recommend that anyone who’s facing struggles go out and help other people and you’d be surprised at how much it actually helps you,” she continued.
Copeland cut open her right leg falling from a zip line near the Tallapoosa River in Georgia in April 2012, allowing a deadly bacterium to enter her body. She received 22 stitches to close the wound on her calf.
Copeland has said she sensed something wasn’t quite right afterward because it hurt up to her thigh.
After being in and out of the emergency room with the painful wound that wouldn’t heal, doctors realized Copeland had necrotizing fasciitis, a severe soft-tissue infection. Doctors were forced to amputate Copeland’s leg from the hip and later, her hands after they too turned black.
She spent two months in a hospital and another two months in rehabilitation before returning to her renovated Snellville, Georgia, home in late August 2012.
In May 2013, Copeland received bionic hands and got a service Labradoodle, Belle, to help her in July of that same year. And while she admits her fight wasn’t always easy, Copeland persevered.
“We all have those dark nights of the soul, those difficult times when I’m trying to do something and everything is going wrong,” she said. “I think having friends and family around … the whole community really just banded together and I think the support system is one of the most important things. All you need is love.”
Copeland wears groundbreaking prostheses created by prosthetist Randy Alley and his California company, BioDesigns Inc.
“I’ve tried different prosthetic devices over the years and last summer when Randy and his team fit me in just three days, the first time I tried them on it was like totally different than anything I’d ever experienced,” Copeland said.
“They just felt like a part of me; an extension of my natural arm, just like the real thing so it was amazing,” she said.
Copeland is the first person in the world to have this advanced prosthetic system.
“Traditional sockets don’t really control the bone inside very well so everything feels like it’s slopping around,” Alley, the CEO of BioDesigns, said. “It’s very heavy and unstable and what we do is a patented way of compressing and releasing around the tissue, so that the bone inside is fixated or stabilized so that it feels like a part of you, becomes a part of you instead of something attached to you.”
Copeland and Alley said their intent is to help others.
“You can never have a bad day,” Alley said. “It’s just an awesome thing to be able to do, to be a part of. They’re the stars of the show, but we like to have a little piece of that.”
Copeland is working to build a nonprofit nature center for people with disabilities.
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