Las Vegas cosmetologist, 22, fighting flesh-eating bacterial infection


A 22-year-old cosmetologist is clinging to life as she and team of doctors battle a flesh-eating bacterial infection that made her ‘flat-line’ on Thanksgiving day. 

Ashleigh Cope 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 hospitalized the next day, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.  

Doctors discovered she’d contracted the infection – formally called necrotizing fasciitis – from Strep bacteria at the site of her surgery. 

Since her heart stopped, she’s been on life support. Her family and friends were told to say there goodbyes, as her chance of survival was slim, at best. 

Ashleigh has since been transferred to a nearby burn and trauma center where her family says she’ll be given the best shot of survival, but the fight is ‘hour by hour,’ her uncle, Doug Cope, told the local outlet. 

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

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 

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. 

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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

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. 

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. 

Ashleigh has been transferred to University Medical Center Lions Burn Care Center in Las Vegas. Her blood pressure has at last stopped dropping and stabilized, a glimmer of hope her loved ones have taken to heart, hoping her fiery spirit will carry her through the fight of her life.  

‘She’s spunky and sassy and sweet and smart and beautiful,’ Heather said of Ashleigh. 

‘She never gives up,’ her mother said.       

As they watch and wait, Ashleigh’s family and friends are raising funds to cover the last week of intensive treatment through GoFundMe. 



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