As daughter progresses, Andy Copeland offers encouragement to other local amputee

Andy and Donna Copeland with Aimee outside of the hospital on June 25. (Family photo)

Andy and Donna Copeland with Aimee outside of the hospital on June 25. (Family photo)


Special Photo Hannah Rinehart and her husband of two years, Mark, a math teacher at South Gwinnett High School are seen here. Doctors believe Hannah contracted a rare infection from bacteria commonly found in dog saliva, which resulted in the amputation of her hands and feet.

SNELLVILLE -- As Aimee Copeland continues to make giant strides in rehab, her father offered words of encouragement to another family with Gwinnett ties going through the tribulations presented by rare disease and amputations.

Copeland, a South Gwinnett High School grad, drew the attention of the nation in May when a zip-lining accident led to a rare flesh-eating bacteria that necessitated the removal of her left leg, right foot and both hands. She's now thriving in rehab, and is expected to "graduate" on Aug. 22.

Meanwhile, a Suwanee native with ties to South Gwinnett is beginning her own journey. Hannah Rinehart, 32, recently had both feet and hands amputated, the result of another rare infection called capnocytophaga. Her husband went public with the Daily Post last week.

Amid increasingly positive reports about his own daughter, Andy Copeland -- Aimee's father and media mouthpiece throughout her ordeal -- said Monday he hopes to be in contact with the Rineharts, to share their stories and offer encouragement.

"This is not the end," Copeland said. "This is only the beginning of something truly special for that family...It can actually be a time of unparalleled love and support for their family."

Copeland asked for his contact information to be passed along to Rinehart's husband Mark, a teacher at South Gwinnett. Doctors believe Hannah Rinehart contracted her rare infection from bacteria commonly found in dog saliva.

Her amputations took place Thursday.

"Anything that we can do to help, even just share our experiences with them, I would certainly love to do," Copeland said.

As Hannah Rinehart begins the next phase of her life, Aimee Copeland is thriving at hers.

A study in perseverance, Copeland is now in the throes of an intense physical therapy regimen. Her father said rehab involves regular sets of 200 crunches in just seven minutes. She also does 400 leg lifts in seven minutes, "an untold number of pushups and something else that she calls 'planks' and 'sideplanks,'" Andy Copeland said.

The point is to get Aimee conditioned to the point where she can (for now) shift her weight and maneuver in and out of a wheelchair and (eventually) be strong enough to begin training with prosthetics.

"She just goes and goes and goes," Andy Copeland said.

Construction crews adding a massive "Aimee's Wing" to the family's Snellville home are working hard to beat Aimee home from rehab, and it looks like they'll do it easily.

Plumbing, light switches and some trim went in over the weekend and the project is "95 percent complete," Stephen Haines said Monday. Haines, the vice president of sales and marketing for project-leader Pulte Homes, said the nearly 2,000-square-foot addition should be complete and ready for interior design work on Friday.

That would mean completion on Day 25, nearly two weeks before the already-lofty original timetable of 38 days.

"We just went as fast as we could," Haines said, "and as a result we're getting done a little bit early."