COMMENTARY | Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old college student suffering from a flesh-eating bacteria infection, is struggling to stay alive. Her condition is worsening according to the Associated Press, and it appears she will lose all her remaining extremities. She will be left with no hands or feet. Her situation teaches several important lessons.
CNN reports the bacteria ravaging her body is Aeromonas hydrophila, which is troublesome even if ingested. Direct contact with deep tissue causes an infection nearly impossible to control. Such direct infection of deep wounds is rare, but injuries in the wild are one way it can happen.
Copeland's tragedy provides a sadly clear example showing how many hidden risks exist in the world. Her wound was the result of the failure of a home-made zip line. All it took to bring about her tragic injury was the combination of weak rope and gravity. This is how randomly dangerous the world can be.
Her continued survival is a testament to her strength of will and the power of her survival instinct. Doctors report that her attitude is having a positive impact on her condition. She'll need all the willpower she can get if she's to make a successful life without complete limbs.
The last important thing her story tells us is the incredible debt we owe as a society and a world to the advances of science. Without modern biology and without modern medical knowledge Copeland's story would be much different.
At any point in human history up till the last 100 years, perhaps even the last 50 years, Copeland's infection would have already meant certain death. While there was no medical magic wand that made her instantly whole and healthy she at least had the benefit of modern drugs and surgical techniques that give you some chance of survival.
We cannot always shield ourselves or our loved ones from the risks present in living our lives. When tragic events occur, however, it is good that facing them with courage and the help of the best medical knowledge humanity has ever possessed that it may be possible to survive injury and illness our forebears could not.