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Girl who contracted often-fatal illness released from hospital

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published September 11, 2013 at 11:09 a.m. Updated September 11, 2013 at 12:25 p.m.

kali-hardig-sits-with-her-parents-at-a-news-conference-wednesday-at-arkansas-childrens-hospital

Kali Hardig sits with her parents at a news conference Wednesday at Arkansas Children's Hospital.

Kali Hardig heads home after surviving often-fatal illness

A 12-year-old Benton girl says she's "lucky to be alive" after becoming only the third person ever to survive an illness caused by a rare brain-eating amoeba. (By Gavin Lesnick)
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A 12-year-old Benton girl who became only the third person to survive after contracting a rare illness caused by a brain-eating amoeba has been released from the hospital.

Kali Hardig joined family and doctors Wednesday at Arkansas Children's Hospital for a news conference announcing her discharge after a recovery they called "miraculous."

Kali is the third person to ever survive primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, which she is believed to have contracted at Willow Springs Water Park after a July visit. The park has since closed.

Seated between her parents, Kali said she looked forward to going home to play with her dog. She said all the attention during her hospital stay was "kinda cool" and said she'd advise others to be careful when swimming and to wear a nose plug.

"I'm lucky to be alive," she said.

Doctors say Kali will go back to school as soon as Friday to check in and see her friends.

"I got to watch a miracle unfold right in front of my eyes," Kali's mother, Traci Hardig said, her voice waivering with emotion. "And it's been the greatest thing it could possibly be."

Dr. Matt Linam, medical director for infection prevention and hospital epidemiology, credited Traci Hardig with getting Kali to Children's as soon as she realized something was wrong. And he said a team of specialists took over from there, recognizing the rare illness and taking necessary steps to save Kali's life.

He called her treatment an "example of health care at its best."

"But no doubt this is a miracle," Linam said. "I don't want to take away from that. But it wasn't one singular event. I think the miracle happened in multiple small doses."

After the reunion at school Friday, Kali is expected to return to class Monday morning. She'll spend the mornings in school and the afternoons in therapy for four to six weeks and will hopefully be able to return to school for the full day after that, said Dr. Esther Tompkins.

The illness Kali contracted is caused by an amoeba that travels up a person's nose, causing an infection that is usually deadly. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it has only two documented cases of people surviving before Kali, one in the U.S. and one in Mexico.

David Berry, senior vice president and chief operating officer at the hospital, said the "odds were clearly against Kali."

"I'm here to tell you today that miracles do happen," he said. "And one such miracle did happen here at Arkansas Children's Hospital. Now 55 days later, Kali Hardig has made history …. as the third survivor of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis."

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Displaying 1 - 4 of 4 total comments

roostermom says... September 11, 2013 at 12:17 p.m.

Kali's a miracle. Her mother is amazing. Every single time you saw her on television, she radiated amazing strength. She was always graceful, answered every question without falling into pieces. To top it off, she had cancer and went through treatment for that while Kali was in the hospital. Perhaps part of Kali's miracle is that she had a mother like that.

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djigoo says... September 11, 2013 at 12:21 p.m.

Wonderful news!

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drs01 says... September 11, 2013 at 12:23 p.m.

The technicians and doctors at ACH are to be commended for their bold and innovative thinking and actions "outside the box" that saves Kali's life. We are very fortunate to have such a fine institution in our city and state.

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Populist says... September 11, 2013 at 8:25 p.m.

God Bless her!

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