SALINE COUNTY, Ark. (KTHV) - THV 11 reported on Monday that the state health department is investigating a possible case of a rare swimming illness called Parasitic Meningitis. There are no official results back yet, but THV 11 has learned from other sources that a 12-year-old Benton girl has apparently acquired the illness, which can cause a fatal brain infection.
The health department can't say much right now about the case that it's looking into, mainly because of privacy issues. But, as for the case with the Benton girl, her mother said that doctors have told her that her daughter has the illness.
"Hip little, sweet little Kali here, to my princess Kali," Traci Hardig said. "She lights up a room when she walks in. Everybody loves her smile."
It's a smile that this mom is holding onto right now.
"I couldn't get her fever down. She started vomiting. She'd say her head hurt really bad. She cried, and she would just look at me and her eyes would just kind of roll," Hardig said.
Hardig brought her daughter to Children's Hospital last Friday. She said doctors told her that Kali suffered parasitic meningitis and is in a medically-induced coma.
"They call her stable for the moment, just got to ride out all the inflammation, all the side effects that the meningitis caused," Hardig said.
The day before Kali was admitted, her mom said that she went swimming in a lake in Arkansas, but she wouldn't say which one. While this illness is rare, you can get parasitic meningitis by ingesting water in your nose, especially in lakes and ponds that are warmer and slow-moving.
"I tell her to fight like mom all the time when I get up close to her," Hardig said.
She's telling her to fight like her mom because Hardig has breast cancer. She's beat the disease since 2005, and she feels Kali can beat her battle, too.
"On Friday, I was told Kali wasn't going to make it through Sunday and look," Hardig said.
It's hope for a return to all those different faces of Kali.
She said, at this point, doctors believe Kali hasn't turned the corner yet, and they're taking things day-by-day. The family has received a lot of support--even her teachers and principals have come by.
THV 11 wants to emphasize again that Kali's case is not officially linked to the one under investigation by the state health department. Health officials did say, however, parasitic meningitis is more often acquired in warmer, stagnant natural waters, like lakes and pond, not in well-chlorinated swimming pools.
For more information about parasitic meningitis, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website: http://on.kthv.com/136c4m6