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Kali Hardig

A Series of Small Miracles

Kali Hardig and her mom, Traci

Everything went exactly right. It’s the best way — maybe the only way — to describe how then-12-year-old Kali Hardig last year became only the third recorded survivor in North America to beat Naegleria fowleri, a rare infection caused by an amoeba that can cause a brain infection that is 99 percent fatal.

From the UAMS physicians working at Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) with nurses and technicians to diagnose and treat Kali, to public health officials quickly finding the source of her infection, the whole ordeal boils down to what one of her doctors called “a series of small miracles.”

It was only a day after a summer swimming trip to a favorite local water park that Kali started complaining of headaches and nausea, said her mother Traci Hardig. When her fever spiked and she was unable to keep her eyes focused, Traci made the mad dash to the hospital.

“It was one of those situations in which everything worked perfectly and proved to be a testament to what health care should be,” said Matt Linam, M.D., medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at ACH and an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UAMS.

There, Linam said, the emergency room staff did well to trust Hardig’s assessment that her daughter was simply not herself.

Read more of this inspiring story in our annual Hub of Health publication.

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Kali celebrates her 13th birthday and the series of miracles that led her to that day