The mother of little Kali Hardig is going through hell right now. Her 12-year-old just barely clings to life -- all because she went swimming in a local lake, something millions of kids do every summer. But Kali contracted a rare brain amoeba from the lake in Little Rock, Arkansas, which caused her to come down with deadly parasitic meningitis. If Kali survives, she'll only be the third known person to do so. Can you imagine?! She just went in a lake!
Parasitic meningitis can happen when the parasite, in this case one that congregates in fresh water sources such as lakes and rivers, and even sometimes in poorly chlorinated pools, enters the body through the nose. The parasite travels up through the nose into the brain and then begins to destroy tissue.
Initial symptoms include vomiting, fever, nausea, and stiff neck. Later symptoms include confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations. It usually causes death within 1 to 12 days.
But miraculously, Kali has been hanging on to life for a week now. And her mom is campaigning to make people more aware of this terrible disease. She says:
You can still take your child swimming. We don't want to scare people. We just want you to know there are little things you can do to help them out. So they can go and still be a kid.
Ways to reduce your risk include wearing nose clips or holding the nose while under water, avoid swimming in fresh water during high temperatures or low water levels, and don't stir up sediment at the bottom of the water, which is where the parasite lives.
The nose plug sounds like the most realistic change to make to your swimming habits -- but do kids really want to wear a nose plug? Who wants to wear one? Still, it might be worth it.
Although contracting this brain amoeba is very rare, that is little comfort to Kali's family. I can't imagine having your healthy little girl splashing and playing one minute, and on the verge of death the next, all because of some parasite you'd probably never heard of.
Let's all hope Kali pulls through this.
Will you have your kids wear a nose plug now?
Image via ABC News