A 12-year-old Arkansas girl who survived a rare and often fatal infection caused by a brain-eating amoeba went home yesterday after being hospitalized since July. Kali Hardig was diagnosed with a devastating infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis after a trip to a now-shuttered Arkansas water park this summer. There were 128 such infections reported in the United States between 1962 and 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Before Kali, doctors could only point to one known survivor in the US and another in Mexico.
Doctors say Kali's success is due in large part to experimental treatment and early detection and diagnosis. After Kali's mother took her to Arkansas Children's Hospital with a nasty fever, doctors cooled the girl's body down to try to reduce the swelling, and they won clearance to treat her with a breast cancer drug. Tests have since shown no sign of the parasite in her system, and she went from being hooked up to a ventilator to breathing on her own and relearning to speak, walk, and eat. She's expected to go back to school part time next week. She'll also juggle physical, occupational, and speech therapy before checking in with her doctors in four to six weeks. (A 12-year-old boy in Florida lost his battle with the same infection last month.)