Katie Couric, right, applauds as Aimee Copeland, who survived a rare fleshing-eating disease, arrives for an interview on the new daytime talk show "Katie," Sept. 11, 2012, in New York. Copeland walked to the stage using a new walker.
Aimee Copeland not only appeared on national television Tuesday -- she walked on stage.
In her first public interview since contracting the flesh-eating bacteria that has claimed most of her limbs, the Snellville native was a guest on Katie Couric's new daytime talk show "Katie." Copeland, 24, walked onto the stage with the help of one prosthetic foot, a walker and a standing ovation.
"That was a beautiful sight to see, Aimee Copeland," Couric, a long-time national news anchor, said.
Copeland responded with a smile: "It felt pretty good too."
Copeland, a graduate student at the University of West Georgia, contracted necrotizing fasciitis on May 1 after falling from a homemade zipline near Carrollton. After fighting off death, enduring amputations and months of rehab, the upbeat South Gwinnett High School grad was finally released to her family's Snellville home two weeks ago.
Described by friends and family throughout the ordeal as an outgoing, positive free spirit, that personality showed through Tuesday.
"Sometimes I'm like, 'Whoa, how did this happen to me,' and it's bad," Copeland told Couric on her new ABC show, which debuted this week. "And sometimes I'm like, 'OK, this is going to be OK, I'm learning how to do things.' It's just like all of everyone else's lives. We all have our own struggles that we have to get through every moment."
Her family joining her on stage, Copeland spoke about the struggles of rehab, and the difficulty of doing things as seemingly simple as brushing her teeth. She said she has hooks for her hands and will eventually get a prosthetic for her left leg (she already has one for her right), but that she wants to do "whatever I can do on my own."
Midway through the interview, Couric posed a dramatic question: "Was there any point where you said 'I can't do this, I'd rather die?'"
Copeland's answer was direct -- "no" -- then, after a pause, more contemplative.
"That was never really an option for me," she said. "I love life. It's a beautiful thing. It's something I don't take for granted anymore, I never take for granted how beautiful it is seeing a sunrise or the ocean, animals. It's so exhilarating, and even moreso now."
"It's like the senses are so deepened," she continued. "Everything smells better, everything is more vibrant, more colorful and even more beautiful than before."
Copeland walking onto the stage wasn't the only surprise during Tuesday's show. Steve Rayman Chevrolet of Atlanta announced that it would be donating a van, which will be retrofitted with technology to allow Copeland to drive herself around town.
"I just wanted her to be a 24-year-old girl," Rayman said.
Tuesday's television interview is the first of two public appearances for Copeland this week. The city of Snellville will host "Aimee's Welcome Home" from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday.
City officials said a band will perform from 5 to 6 p.m. on the town green while Copeland speaks with the media. Copeland will make an appearance on the green herself after that, with plans to speak to the crowd before meeting visitors individually until 8 p.m., or as long as her health permits.