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July 19, 2013The hazy glare of another hot morning shone through the blinds when Kali Hardig plopped onto a gray, floral-patterned couch and waited for the throbbing in her head to subside. Almost as if her long, sun-drenched hair were on fire.Kali, who was then 12 years old, didn’t even want to get out of bed.Nearly a year before, when he arrived at the hospital on Friday night, two doctors asked them to step into another room and, as the Hardigs recall, explained that Kali had parasitic meningitis. She toughed it out three months before the Red Cross flew him back in June. “We’re going to go in there and tell her to fight.”The two of them went back to Kali’s room and told her to fight like a girl, to fight like her mom. “When they got that through, it relieved her headache,” Joseph tells me. On Monday morning, the tube became plugged up while doctors administered drugs directly to her brain. (Kali was ready to get some glasses and go home.) “Daddy,” she said, “why is there two of you? Reports of people contracting and dying from the brain-eating amoeba typically crop up in the summer.If Kali made it, she’d be the third known survivor, according to the CDC. All she wanted were those little cubes of ice; her mouth was dry. When they do, headlines and news tickers evoke a new hidden killer lurking in our midst. S.: A 12-year-old boy from Florida contracted a fatal case in June and a 9-year-old girl died in Kansas last week.
It was just a day earlier that Kali and two of her friends had piled into the car to go to Willow Springs Water Park, a warm, muddy, man-made pond about halfway between home and Little Rock.
The increasing awareness of the brain-eating amoeba exposes a subtle crack in the nation’s hygienic vigilance and a much larger flaw in our perception.
Here was a potential pathogen that could not feasibly be eradicated, that lived in warm freshwater and crawled around lakes and reservoirs — and potentially home plumbing.
Families barbecued at shaded picnic tables that ringed the water as familiar tunes — “Desperation Samba,” “Yellow Submarine,” “Baby Love” — pumped out of tinny gray speakers.
At the ER, Traci made it clear that this was no ordinary flu.