Rome student also battled flesh-decaying infection

A few months before Aimee Copeland contracted the flesh-decaying infection that nearly cost her life, a student in Rome was battling the disease.

"It started out as a sore throat that turned into strep throat" in mid-January, said Raymond Dominguez, 21, a junior at Shorter University. Dominguez said he initially went to an urgent care center in Rome for treatment with antibiotics.

"They kept treating me and the strep went away, but all of a sudden I got this pain in my right arm that went down my right side," he said. Dominguez said he dealt with the pain for two weeks before going to the emergency room at a Cartersville hospital.

His right arm had swollen nearly twice its normal size, he said. Doctors diagnosed him with necrotizing fasciitis -- a bacterial infection that causes body tissue to die, and one similar to the infection that has caused Copeland to lose her leg, feet and hands.

Dominguez was taken by ambulance to Northside Hospital in Atlanta, where doctors told him he might lose his arm. He didn't, but he underwent numerous surgeries.  "They cut into my arm, and the backside of my arm and into my back," he said.

Dominguez took a medical leave from Shorter, where he was majoring in sports business management, and is back home recuperating near San Diego.

"It comes out of nowhere; you find out later how bad it is," he said of necrotizing fasciitis. Many strains of bacteria can cause the infection. The Centers for Disease Control estimates there are about 9,000 to 11,500 cases of group A streptococcus bacteria --  one cause of nectrotizing fasciitis -- each year. Of those, only 6 percent to 7 percent are invasive. More commonly, the bacteria results in infections such as strep throat or a skin infection called impetigo.

Dominguez' is the fourth case of necrotizing fasciitis that has come to light in the region recently after Copeland's battle was widely reported and her condition updated regularly by her father, Andy Copeland, on a Facebook page.

The University of West Georgia student remains in the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta. She has made significant strides toward recovery after doctors gave her a slim chance of survival.

The Snellville native contracted the infection May 1 as she and friends zip-lined along the Little Tallapoosa River near Carrollton. When the homemade zip line broke, she fell to the water and rocks below, cutting her calf on a stone.

The bacteria Aeromonas hydrophila entered through Copeland's wound and led to the necrotizing fasciitis, forcing doctors to perform multiple amputations, including removing her left leg at the hip.

The community continues to rally to Copeland's cause, hosting fundraisers and blood drives.

A blood drive is planned for noon to 5 p.m. Friday at UWG; June 11 at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, and June 13 at the University of Georgia.

Andy Copeland, A USC alumnus, asked for donors in Copeland's name from USC and UGA. Alumni of the schools can go to any blood donation center and contribute in Copeland’s name, he noted.

Also, two benefit concerts are planned for June 15 and 16 on the Snellville town green in honor of Aimee Copeland. The events will be from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, June 15 and from 2 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, June 16.

The following musical artists and/or groups have agreed to appear: Loganville's Jordan Rager from NBC’s The Voice; Banks & Shane; Wade Sapp;  Brandon Whitley; Hero (band); Corey Durkin (wrote “Southern Belle” for Aimee); The Dam Band; and the Fineline Band. Former UGA football great and NFL quarterback David Greene will sign autographs on June 16.