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Young Flesh-Eating Bacteria Victim Reveals Her $200,000 Bionic Hands

Update Date: May 17, 2013 02:12 PM EDT
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The brave 25-year-old graduate student who tragically lost her hands, feet and her entire right leg in a flesh eating infection has received two state-of-the-art bionic hands.

Aimee Copeland of Georgia accidentally cut open her leg in a zip-lining accident in May 2012 near the Tallapoosa River in Georgia. However, doctors realized that the wound on her left calf had been infected with necrotizing fasciitis.  The infection, which is commonly referred to as "flesh-eating disease", is a rare by extremely aggressive bacterial infection that develops when the Aeromonas hydrophila enters the body.

And because the bacteria was quickly multiplying and releasing tissue-destroying toxins, doctors were forced to amputate Copeland's left leg, right foot and both hands to save her life.

However, on Friday, the University of Georgia student revealed her new $200,000 prosthetic hands.  In an interview with the Today show, she told reporters that she's able to move her new hands and fingers and control the grip strength of her artificial hands by flexing and contracting her arm muscles.

She is now able to do everyday things like signing her name, chopping vegetables, driving a car and even shaking another person's hand.

Her prosthetist Robert Kistenberg of the Georgia Institute of Technology told the Today show that the Aimee's artificial hands work off the electrical and chemical reaction created when she flexes or contracts a muscle.

"That electrical signal is very, very slight," he said on the Today show. "But our electrodes are sensitive enough to pick it up through the skin."

"She's very smart and very adept. I wouldn't be surprised if in the next month or two she'll be able to use them without thinking about it," Kistenberg said. "There are things that she's done in two days, three days that it takes other people 6 months or a year to gain control over these devices."

Aimee is still working with Kistenberg to improve her skill with them.  She is also finishing her master's degree in psychology and then plans to start a program in social work. She says that when she looks back and how her life has changed, she feels like a completely different person.

"Sometimes I wake up and I'm just like, 'Oh my God, is this my life? This is crazy!" she said.  "I look at pictures of how I was before, and I feel almost disconnected from that person because my perspective now is so different than the point of view of that girl.  And so, in a way, it almost feels like I died a year ago and I was reborn as someone different."

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