ROMULUS, MICH., AUG. 19 -- The sole survivor of the second worst airline disaster in U.S. history was taken off a respirator today, and gifts for her piled up at the hospital where she is recuperating.
The hospital where Cecilia Cichan, 4, of Tempe, Ariz., is being treated was inundated with phone calls, stuffed animals, balloons, letters and donations from well-wishers, officials said.
One woman brought her a big white teddy bear because "I wanted her to have something cuddly to hang on to." Karen Dean, a Detroit housewife, gave Cecilia a doll because "I can't get her out of my mind."
Toni Shear, a spokeswoman for the University of Michigan Medical Center, said the outpouring did not surprise her because "Cecilia is the only glimmer of hope in this tragedy."
The condition of the child, pulled from the smoldering wreckage of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 Sunday night, continued to improve today, officials said. The girl remained in serious condition at the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in"I wanted her to have something cuddly to hang on to."
-- Donor of a teddy bear
nearby Ann Arbor, but she opened her eyes, regained semiconsciousness and was removed from a respirator, spokeswomen said.
Cichan suffered a broken leg, a broken collarbone, a concussion and third-degree burns over about 30 percent of her body. Hospital officials said two CAT scans had found the girl had suffered no permanent brain damage. Skin graft operations are planned for Thursday or Friday.
Cecilia's father, Michael Cichan, 32, a botany professor at Arizona State University; her mother, Paula, 33; and her brother, David, 6, were among those killed aboard the jet. The family was returning to Tempe after visiting relatives in the Philadelphia area.
Rescuers found Cecilia, wearing a light summer dress, cradled in her dead mother's arms in the debris. Relatives were able to identify the badly bruised and heavily bandaged girl by her chipped front tooth, blond braided hair and purple fingernail polish.
Her grandfather, Anthony Cichan, said today he was deeply moved by the outpouring of emotion. "I am a firm believer in a positive approach," he said, adding that if his granddaughter's survival demonstrates the importance of strong families, "all is not in vain."