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Originally published Monday, May 28, 2012 at 7:03 AM

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Ga. woman battling flesh-eating bacteria speaks

A young Georgia woman battling a flesh-eating disease could hardly believe it when she was able to speak Sunday for the first time since she was taken to an Augusta hospital more than three weeks ago, her father said Monday.

The Associated Press

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ATLANTA —

A young Georgia woman battling a flesh-eating disease could hardly believe it when she was able to speak Sunday for the first time since she was taken to an Augusta hospital more than three weeks ago, her father said Monday.

"Hello. Whoa. Wow, my mind is blown," were Aimee Copeland's first words Sunday morning to her sister and mother, her father said in a phone interview Monday with The Associated Press. Andy Copeland was in church at the time and had to wait until a later visitation time Sunday evening to hear his daughter's voice.

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

When her father finally got into Copeland's room around 5 p.m. Sunday, he asked her how she felt. He said he was thrilled to hear her respond, "It feels weird being able to talk."

Copeland began breathing on her own early last week and the ventilator was wheeled out of her room on Thursday, the same day she was able to sit up in a chair on her own. She no longer has tubes in her nose and is down to three IVs from an initial 12, her father said.

She also is finally able to eat soft foods. A vegetarian, she had a tall breakfast order for her mother on Monday: veggie sausage, a biscuit, white gravy, a fried egg over easy and fresh fruit.

"She'll probably eat one bite," said Copeland's mother, Donna. "But sure I'm going to make it. What mother wouldn't make it?"

Copeland's voice is weak and raspy, her father said, but she has been joking with family, talking about her life at the hospital and asking what everyone else has been up to.

A graduate student in psychology at the University of West Georgia, Copeland contracted the rare infection days after she suffered a deep cut May 1 when a zip line snapped over rocks in the Little Tallapoosa River.

Doctors at the local emergency room in Carrollton closed the wound with nearly two dozen staples, but it became infected within days. On May 4, she was diagnosed with the rare infection and flown 200 miles to Augusta for treatment by specialists at Doctors Hospital.

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