Survivor of rare flesh-eating bacteria tells her story

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email
Brenda Koch survived Necrotizing Faciitis. She hopes her story will encourage Aimee Copeland. (WRDW-TV, May 13, 2012)

Brenda Koch survived Necrotizing Faciitis. She hopes her story will encourage Aimee Copeland. (WRDW-TV, May 13, 2012)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Sunday, May 13, 2012

GIBSON, Ga. -- Aimee Copeland remains in critical condition at Doctors Hospital.

The UGA grad has already lost a leg and will be losing her fingers, and doctors are hoping to save her palms. The family now counts down to what they have called Aimee Day -- the day she will be off a respirator and talking.

For many of us, we never even knew what necrotizing fasciitis was until we heard of Aimee's story. Doctors are calling her progress a miracle.

Now those who have fought the rare infection are wanting to encourage Aimee's family and shed light on this disease.

Brenda Koch is a 13-year survivor of necrotizing fasciitis and seeing Aimee's story made her want to share her story with the Copeland family.

"I spent seven months in the hospital literally fighting for my life," she said.

A life, doctors said, there was a good chance she wouldn't have for much longer. In 1999, she was diagnosed with the infection and went into ICU.

"It's a killer," she said. "Simple as that, and like I said, if you survive it with the extent that I have it and the extent that this young lady has it, we're miracles. We're walking miracles."

When she left the hospital 13 years ago, she didn't know if she ever would walk again.

"It was a fight from the start to the end, and it's still a fight because like I said, I still fall in the yard," she said. "They told me I'd never walk again. I didn't walk out of the hospital; I was rolled out."

She eventually learned to walk again. She never gave up through more than 50 surgeries. Doctors didn't amputate her leg like Aimee, but they cut out all the muscle down to the bone.

"If you've ever been in a meat market and have seen like a cow's leg hanging up to be cut for steak, that's exactly what my leg looked like," she said.

But looks didn't matter to her. All the mattered is that she survived and she hopes Aimee will see that, too.

"You're here," Brenda said. "You have not finished this journey, but you're on the beginning road of this journey, and you'll take every step and each day at a time."

Her life changed through the process -- a process she says she knows Aimee will survive as well.

"I just know that she is going to be a survivor and she's going to walk down that road and she's going to get where I am," she said.

Brenda still uses a cane to walk most of the time. She says she knows Aimee's situation will be a lot different than hers but wants to be there any way she can because she knows what it was like to be in Aimee's position.

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