"Fight like a Girl" bracelets raise money for Kali Hardig
ROGERS (KATV) - An Arkansas girl affected by an amoeba is beating the odds by becoming one of only three people to survive the infection.
12-year old Kali Hardig has been in the hospital since July 19. Now a Rogers man who has never even met Kali or her family is doing his part to help raise money for them.
Kali has been moved out of ICU and is interacting with family. Every weekend, supporters sell lemonade, hot dogs, T-shirts, host car washes and now, thanks to Robert McMillan, survival bracelets.
Paracord was invented during WWII and it didn't take long for soldiers to realize its value.
Robert McMillan started McMillan Paracord in 2011. He says, "It is mainly a fashionable way to carry a good deal of 550 pound test cord, which is what this is."
Survival bracelets are now taking on a new meaning for a girl fighting for her life at Arkansas Children's Hospital. McMillan adds, "I looked at my girls and all I could think of is if I ever get in this situation, I hope somebody is looking out for us too."
Since getting approval from the Hardig family to sale the bracelets, military veteran Robert McMillan has been flooded with orders. He points to a table, "All the these are ready to go out."
He continues, "We are basically keeping enough money to ship the bracelets out and order more cord and buckles for futures orders."
McMillan gave Channel 7's Katherina Yancy, Kali's specially made bracelet to drive from Rogers to Ashley Loux. Ashley got the ball rolling to make sure the survival bracelets became a reality. Standing in front of Arkansas Children's Hospital, Ashley says, "There is really no way to describe how I feel. It is the biggest honor being able to deliver these to Kali and her family."
Proceeds from each sale go to her medical bills. Kali continues to make progress - Monday, August 12, she wrote her name.
Robert McMillan lives in Rogers and welcomes volunteers in the area to help make the bracelets.
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.
Background: When Kali was first brought to a hospital with severe symptoms of meningitis, her odds of living were very slim; but Friday, August 9, Kali was moved 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.
Dr. Heulitt adds, "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,"
A confirmed case of the brain eating amoeba that has threatened Kali's life has now been reported in Southwest Florida. The age and condition of the patient have not been released.
Dr. Heulitt continues, "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."
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.
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.