PENSACOLA, Fla. — Doctors on Friday gave their most optimistic report yet about Jessie Arbogast, saying the shark attack victim is expected to survive and is no longer in a deep coma.
Doctors at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital said Jessie, 8, was breathing on his own and responding to pain and discomfort by grimacing, opening his eyes and making slight body movements. He remains in critical condition.
"We are hopeful for a very good recovery," said Dr. Ben Renfroe, a pediatric neurologist. "We are very excited about the progress he has made so far."
The biggest concern remains whether Jessie suffered brain damage, though tests showed no evidence of swelling or injury.
The Ocean Springs, Miss., boy was attacked at Gulf Islands National Seashore July 6, losing his right arm and suffering a deep wound to his right leg. He lost nearly all his blood, which damaged other organs.
His uncle and a beachgoer hauled the 7-foot bull shark ashore. The boy's arm was pulled from the animal's gullet, and it was reattached during an 11-hour surgery.
Jessie's recovery is expected to be slow, said Dr. Rex Northup, a pediatric intensive care physician.
"The chance of a sudden almost instantaneous, if you will, awakening from this type of thing is unusual," Northup said.
Doctors said Jessie's kidneys were improving. He was taken off dialysis Thursday but did not show as much improvement as doctors had hoped. They planned to put him on a gentler form of dialysis.
Kidney failure actually may be a positive sign for Jessie's brain, Renfroe said. A body reacts to blood loss by shunting remaining blood to the heart and brain.
"That's why the kidneys took such a big hit and the heart did not," Renfroe said. "So we're very hopeful that in actuality he didn't go a long period of time without blood to his brain. It certainly doesn't seem so."