LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - A 12-year old girl remains in critical condition after contracting a brain eating parasite. Kali Hardig has a rare form of meningitis caused by the amoeba that thrives in warm, stagnant freshwater. It's usually deadly, but Kali's family, friends and supporters are hopeful she will become the third known survivor.
Kali has been in the hospital for 11 days now; the family counts their blessing every day they have with her. "She will light up a room with that smile. I can't wait to see that smile again with her teeth shining," Traci Hardig says.
Kali Le Ann is a loving 12 year old who loves to swim and play sports. Days after a trip to a water park that has a shallow, sandy bottom lake, Kali's felt exhausted. "And it started with just a headache, you know, 'mamma, my head hurts,' Traci recalls.
Traci made a doctors appointment but had to rush Kali to Arkansas Children's Hospital because she became limp, only wanted to sleep, started vomiting and her fever reached 103.5. Traci thought it was a virus and she needed fluids. "No. It was just heart wrenching, I was not prepared for the diagnosis she received."
It's been a roller coaster, with some high points. "Yes there are those little moments every once in a while like yesterday her dad got a movement of her hand in his hand and a little flutter of her eyes."
Tuesday, Kali's eyes opened and made contact with moms. "Those are exciting moments that give you reassurance that she is still there."
Friends are rallying for Kali with bracelets and shirts with the number 3. It is significant, it means Kali could be the third survivor in the U.S. Traci says, "We are holding on to every day because I feel like every day is little step toward winning that race."
A familiar race for Traci, she is currently fighting breast cancer and has had Kali as her cheerleader. The roles are reversed for now. She smiles, "The big thing they're telling her is to fight like momma. She is doing just that."
Traci doesn't want to place blame on where Kali got the parasitic meningitis. She is focused on a cure and says when Kali gets better they will pass out nose plug. It is a tip when swimming in fresh water.
Traci recently found out the cancer has metastasis to her bone and she will have to fly out this week for treatment. Kali's dad who works for the National Guard has returned from Kuwait to be by his daughter's side. Kali also has an 18 year old sister.
According to the Arkansas Department of Health, the odds of contracting the amoeba are extremely low. It thrives in warm, standing freshwater. It is usually harmless, but can cause fatal brain swelling if inhaled through the nose.