Kali Hardig, the 12-year-old Arkansas girl who contracted a deadly infection from a brain-eating amoeba in July, will start school Monday, just weeks after the same illness killed a Florida boy.
According to CNN, Hardig is just the third person in the last half-century to survive
the rare form of parasitic meningitis, which has a survival rate of less than 1 percent.
Doctors believe the girl became infected after swimming in a lake at an Arkansas water park back in July. She was hospitalized shortly after as health experts worked to keep her alive using an experimental drug from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention.
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The brain-eating amoeba, or Naegleria fowleri, will produce symptoms one to seven days after infection, including headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and a stiff neck, according to the CDC. A person usually succumbs to the parasite after about 12 days.
"It was a long haul. We were in ICU for 22 days," Hardig's mom Traci told CNN. "It was like riding a rollercoaster — I mean, one moment things would be going good, and then the next moment something else could happen."
Miraculously, Hardig's condition began to slowly improve. She began rehabilitation in August and was finally allowed to go home on Wednesday. She'll return to school part-time next week.
"It's awesome to be home," Hardig told CNN. "Thank you for praying for me, everybody."
But the Reyna family in Florida didn’t have such a happy ending. Their son, Zachary, 12, contracted the same brain-eating amoeba infection after swimming in a water-filled ditch at the beginning of August.
Like Hardig, Reyna was treated with the experimental CDC drug,
but the boy died Aug. 24 at Miami Children's Hospital.
"The battle is over for Zac but he won the war," the Reynas wrote at the time on a Facebook page dedicated to the boy, adding that his organs would be donated. "Even though Zac has passed, he will still be saving many lives."
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