It’s been about four years since Aimee Copeland lost her hands, a leg and a foot in a fight with flesh-eating bacteria, and she is bragging about beating friends in arm wrestling.
She’s sitting on a mat in a small exercise room of her Atlanta house, with ankle weights slipped over her surgically shortened arms, wearing no prosthetic save for the right foot she uses to help her slide and twist off her wheelchair.
She lifts her arms and lowers them, demonstrating one of the many exercises she does for near-daily 90-minute sessions.
“Arm strength is so important when you’re missing one whole leg,” she says, before musing about how strong she is. “I’ve beaten pretty much everybody at this house in arm wrestling,” she explains, without even using her hand prostheses. Her opponents grabbed the end of her arm, elbows on the table, and she took them down.
Her housemate Esther hears her from another room and laughs.
“You are evil,” Esther says.
“One was a guy,” Copeland offers.
“I was going to say,” Esther laughs.
Copeland, 28, has long been active and outdoorsy. Before her accident, she hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail, rode her bike to class, went rock climbing in Alabama and dabbled in whitewater kayaking.
It’s been one hell of a journey: she’s left her parents’ care, finished two master’s degrees, got a new boyfriend, is about to start a new job, and has ambitious plans to serve others through a nonprofit she hopes to create one day. It’s a path that she found after a lot of pain, screaming and dark nights.
And it’s a trek that happened only because of a zip line ride that she didn’t even plan on taking.