A rare and lethal brain-eating amoeba infected two 12-year-old children this summer, Kali Hardig of Arkansas and Zachary Reyna of Florida. Hardig survived, becoming only the second person in the United States known to have lived through such an infection. Last week, she was learning to speak again:
“She’s not speaking normal, but she is doing wonderful trying to pronounce stuff,” Kali’s mother, Traci Hardig, said Wednesday. “She can say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’” She’s also been able to say “Hi mama,” “daddy” and “nanny.”
Health officials believe Kali got sick after a trip to a now-shuttered Arkansas water park that features a sandy-bottomed lake. . . .
Doctors say Kali’s success is due in large part to experimental treatment and early detection and diagnosis.
Traci Hardig brought Kali (pronounced KAY’-lee) to Arkansas Children’s Hospital with a nasty fever on July 19.
Doctors cooled Kali’s body down to try to reduce the swelling, and they won clearance to treat her with a breast-cancer drug.
Now, tests show no sign of the parasite in her system.
“It’s still a concern that she could certainly have some deficits long-term and not function entirely as she would have if this had never happened,” one of her doctors, Dr. Vikki Stefans, said.
But, for now, Kali is making progress.
“She’s up and participating in all her therapy,” Stefans said. “She’s saying more, and things are basically looking good.”
A hospital spokeswoman would not confirm Reyna’s death, but his family announced Monday that his organs were being donated:
In a Facebook posting late Monday, the family announced that Zachary Reyna’s organs were going to others who were “waiting on a miracle.”
“Zac is our miracle,” the family’s Facebook posting said. “His spirit will always be among us. He changed all of our lives, brought us closer to God, strengthened our family and his story has touched people around the world.”
Reyna became infected Aug. 3 while knee boarding with friends in a ditch near his family’s LaBelle home. Doctors in Miami told the family late last week that the boy had extensive brain damage. . . .
The boy’s uncle, Homer Villarreal, told The Associated Press on Saturday that the family was still reeling from the loss of a boy with boundless energy. He said the boy had challenged him to a basketball game two days before he was admitted to the hospital.
“It’s hard for me to believe that Zachary can be laying in bed when this kid would never run out of energy,” Villarreal said. “It’s hard for all of us to believe this is happening to him.”
There are several cases of primary amebic meningoencephalitis, as the infection is known, each year. The disease, caused by a single-celled parasite called Naegleria fowleri, is almost always fatal. Naegleria lives in warm freshwater lakes and rivers, especially in the south, and it enters swimmers’ brains through their noses. Learn more on the disease and how to avoid it from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.