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Woman with flesh-eating disease refusing pain medications

10:48 AM, Jun 17, 2012   |    comments
Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old Georgia graduate student fighting to survive a flesh-eating bacterial infection that she contracted after an accident. AP
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ATLANTA - A Georgia woman fighting a flesh-eating disease is refusing to take pain medications during some procedures, partly because of her personal convictions, her father said.

Aimee Copeland despises the use of morphine in her treatment, despite its effectiveness at blocking her pain, her father said in a Friday online update on his daughter's condition. Her graduate-school study of holistic pain management techniques leads her to feel she's a "traitor to her convictions" when she uses drugs to manage her pain, Andy Copeland said.

He also said the morphine has been making his daughter groggy, confused and has given her unpleasant hallucinatory episodes.

Aimee Copeland, 24, developed necrotizing fasciitis after cutting her leg in a fall May 1 from a homemade zip line over a west Georgia river. Her left leg, other foot and both hands have been amputated.

On Tuesday, Copeland's condition was upgraded from critical to serious, "a major victory that cannot and should not be diminished," Andy Copeland wrote Friday on his blog, where he has been providing regular updates on her progress. The development came shortly after Aimee Copeland had 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 Friday's 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," he wrote. "I know the pain was significant, but Aimee's courage is greater."

The bacteria that attacked Aimee Copeland's wound releases a toxin that destroys skin, muscle and a layer of tissue below the skin known as fascia, her father says.

Despite the painful skin grafts, Aimee Copeland has crossed several milestones in recent weeks. She can breathe on her own, she no longer needs dialysis and she's now able to eat on her own, her father wrote. Although her major organs are all functioning well, Aimee Copeland still needs supplemental nutrition through a stomach tube.

This weekend, thousands of people are expected at a long-planned fund-raising event outside Atlanta to help the family with medical expenses. The two-day benefit concert in Aimee Copeland's hometown of Snellville begins at 5 p.m. Friday and continues through Saturday night.

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