A 22-year-old cosmetologist who contracted a flesh-eating bacterial infection that stopped her heart on Thanksgiving day is awake, talking and on even on her feet with some help after being placed on life support.
After eight surgeries to remove dying tissue, Ashleigh Cope is making remarkable progress, reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Thursday.
‘She is truly a miracle and beating the odds,’ her mother, Andrea Cope, told the Review-Journal.
Ashleigh had undergone an outpatient surgery at an unidentified clinic in Henderson, Nevada, and by the Tuesday before the holiday she was clearly very ill, and was hospitalized the next day.
Doctors discovered she’d contracted the infection – formally called necrotizing fasciitis – from Strep bacteria at the site of her surgery.
After a recent surgery, Ashleigh Cope (pictured) developed necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating infection caused but Strep bacteria. She’s now fighting for her life in a Las Vegas hospital
She had been on life support since her heart stopped on Thanksgiving. Her family and friends were told to say there goodbyes, as her chance of survival was slim, at best, they thought.
Ashleigh was then been transferred to a nearby burn and trauma center to give her the best shot of survival.
Her uncle, Doug Cope, described her fight as ‘hour by hour,’ he told the Review-Journal.
Last week, the Cope family got a tiny glimmer of hope as Ashleigh’s blood pressure finally stabilized.
And this week, Ashleigh has surprised them and her medical team beyond their hopes.
‘Today, Ashleigh woke up feeling strong and determined. With assistance she was able to stand and move her legs for the first time today,’ Ashleigh’s family and friends wrote on her GoFundMe page.
During a holiday week about food and festivity, Andrea Cope’s usually energetic daughter was anything but.
The night after her surgery – the family has not disclosed what kind of procedure she had done, citing privacy concerns – Ashleigh complained of pain at the surgical site.
She tried to eat but just ‘couldn’t keep anything down,’ her mother told the Review-Journal.
By the next day, it was clear Ashleigh’s wasn’t just a passing bug. She was taken to the emergency room and diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis triggered by the a strain of Streptococcus bacteria.
There are some 50 types of Strep bacteria, including forms that cause strep throat.
Group A Strep can cause both the throat infection and become flesh-eating.
The latter occurs when the bacteria invade a type of connective tissue beneath the skin, called the superficial fascia.
Bacteria enter the system through breaks, cuts or scrapes in the skin as well as through surgical sites, like Ashleigh’s.
Prior to Thanksgiving, Ashleigh underwent an unnamed outpatient surgery, from which she’s believed to have contracted the infection. Strep bacteria spread from the Henderson, Nevada, resident’s torso to knees, her family said. Pictured, left and right: Ashleigh before surgery
Once there, the infection begins to kill off the tissue, causing between 700 and 1,200 potentially life-threatening illnesses a year.
Between 25 and 30 percent of those sickened don’t survive.
IV antibiotics may stop the bacteria but, if not, the diseased tissue has to be cut away in a desperate surgical attempt to stop the infection’s spread and save a patient’s life. Often, that means amputations.
If it continues to spread, the bacteria can infect the blood, a condition called sepsis that can swiftly shut down the organs.
According to the Review-Journal, bacteria had infected everywhere from Ashleigh’s torso down to her knees.
Her family and friends describe Ashleigh as ‘spunky’ and say she never gives up, qualities they hope will come through as she fights the infection. She has been on life support since Thanksgiving, but her blood pressure has finally stabilized, a glimmer of hope loved ones
She quickly slipped into sepsis and went into kidney failure.
‘It just snowballed,’ said Andrea.
‘They gave us almost no chance of survival for her.’
Dozens of family and friends have gathered around her.
‘Everyone was saying their goodbyes,’ family friend, Heather DeLong told the the Review-Journal.
While her daughter was lying in the hospital on life sport, her mother continued to trust in her daughter’s strength.
‘She’s spunky and sassy and sweet and smart and beautiful,’ Heather said of Ashleigh.
‘She never gives up.’
Now, awake, talking and even on her feet, Ashleigh has proven her mother right, and made her proud by ‘surprising her medical team daily.’