By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) – The condition of Lana Kuykendall, the South Carolina woman infected with “flesh-eating” bacteria shortly after giving birth to twins nearly two months ago, is improving, her doctor said Friday.
“Her leg wounds are healing well, and she’s making excellent headway on therapy,” said Dr. Kevin Kopera, medical director for Roger C. Peace Rehabilitation Hospital in Greenville.
The recovery for such infections typically requires four to six weeks of inpatient rehabilitation, followed by weeks of outpatient rehabilitation, he said.
“Her strength continues to improve daily,” husband Darren said in a news release. He said she can walk up to 50 feet at a time with a walker.
His wife undergoes physical and occupational therapy twice daily, her tracheotomy device has been removed, and she can speak normally, the release said.
The 36-year-old mother’s occupational therapy includes diapering and lifting a doll, and she can spend several hours per day with twins Abigail and Ian.
Kuykendall was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis on May 11, four days after giving birth, and taken to Greenville Memorial Hospital. She has undergone 20 surgical procedures, including skin grafts. But she did not require any amputations, as recently occurred in the case of 24-year-old Aimee Copeland of Georgia, who lost her hands, a leg and a foot as a result of the infection.
Kuykendall was moved last week to the rehabilitation hospital, where she was in good condition, hospital officials said.
But she faces a long rehabilitation, said Dr. Bill Kelly, hospital epidemiologist for Greenville Hospital System, last week.
Kuykendall, a paramedic, went to the hospital after noticing a rapidly expanding bruise on her leg, her husband, a firefighter, said last month.
A variety of the bacteria, which are common in the environment but rarely cause serious infections, can cause the disease. When they enter the bloodstream — as through a cut — doctors typically move aggressively to excise even healthy tissue near the infection site in hopes of ridding the body of the bacteria.
The disease attacks and destroys healthy tissue and is fatal in about 20% of cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, estimated that fewer than 250 such cases occur each year in the United States, though estimates are imprecise because doctors do not have to report the cases to health authorities.