Doctor: Kali Hardig released from ICU, beginning months of rehab

Doctors at Arkansas Children's Hospital say a young girl suffering from a rare form of meningitis will be only the third person to survive out of 128 diagnosed.

We've been following the story of Kali Hardig since its believed she acquired the bacteria from a central Arkansas water park three weeks ago.

When Kali was first brought to a hospital with severe symptoms of meningitis, her odds of living were very slim; but Friday Kali will move from the intensive care unit into the floor unit, where she'll continue her road to recovery.

"I mean it was ecstatic news and she did so well to breathe on her own, so it was just unbelievable," said Kali's mother Traci Hardig about her daughter being taken off a ventilator.

Traci Hardig said about the miraculous day it became apparent Kali was going to survive, making childhood accomplishments even while lying in a hospital bed.

"Kali has made me so proud these past three weeks you can't believe it," her mother added.

Since the beginning of this emotional roller coaster for the family, doctors knew they were up against deadly bacteria.

"The amoeba will actually eat away at the tissue; it literally eats the tissues," said Dr. Mark Heulitt. "It is a severe form of meningitis where your brain will be eaten by the amoeba."

Dr. Heulitt is one of Kali's doctors at ACH. He said an experimental drug from Germany is playing a crucial role in Kali's survival, along with the timing of her seeing a doctor, even before she made it to ACH.

"Any delay in this is very serious. I agree absolutely that one of the things is if she waited another day she would not be alive today," Dr. Heulitt added.

Just a couple of hours before our interview, a phone call to Dr. Heulitt made him realize just how groundbreaking it is that Kali is beating the odds, not only in Arkansas, but around the nation.

"Since we have a survivor everyone wants to know what we did. There is another child who's recently in another children's hospital who they think has naegleria, so the Center for Disease Control directed the hospital to contact us," he continued.

Through online outreach, it's safe to say the people of Arkansas consider Kali their adopted child.

"It's really touched us, I mean we can't believe the support that we've gained and the people that just want to pray for Kali," Hardig said.

Kali still has a road of rehab ahead of her. Doctors expect a hospital stay for about two more months to retrain parts of her brain.

It's unknown right now if she'll experience any side effects.

The Prayers for Kali Le Ann Facebook page is getting support from all over the world and her classmates in Saline County have been raising money to pay for her medical bills.

Donations to medical bills can be made at any Arvest Bank branch. The account is "Kali Le Ann Hardig.'

Officials with the ADH say it is the second case of the rare illness from the same water park in the past three years. The other victim, a 7 year old boy died in 2010.