RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (ATU) - Kali Hardig of Benton, one of only three documented survivors of an often-deadly form of parasitic meningitis, will be on hand to conduct the pregame coin toss at the Arkansas Tech/Southern Arkansas football game on Saturday, Oct. 12, the Arkansas Tech department of athletics announced Friday.
"We have been following Kali's story intently from the beginning," said Steve Mullins, Director of Athletics at Arkansas Tech. "Her recovery has been inspiring. We are so happy that Kali and her family will be our honored guests and will help us with our pregame activities."
The coin toss is slated for three minutes before kickoff.
Health officials believe that Hardig came into contact with the Naegleria fowleri amoeba while swimming in a freshwater water park in Little Rock. Between 1962 and 2012, there were only 128 such infections reported in the United States. Hardig became just the second documented survivor of the infection in the United States, with another survivor reported in Mexico.
On July 19, Hardig was admitted to Arkansas Children's Hospital with a then-unknown illness. Days later, the diagnosis of primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) was confirmed.
Doctors began experimental treatments in late July. The 12-year-old continued to improve as the days passed, first responding by squeezing a nurse's hand when asked. She was taken off the ventilator in Aug. 6, and was moved out of the ICU three days later. Exactly one month after being admitted to the hospital, Hardig was able to speak, saying "hello" to her mother.
As Kali continued to improve, her family got the news that they had been waiting for - after 55 long days in the hospital, Kali would be sent home on Wednesday, Sept. 11, and on Monday, Sept. 16, Kali returned to school for the first time since falling ill.
"The bravery that Kali has shown throughout her recovery has been tremendous," said Mullins. "We hope that she and her family will enjoy their visit to our campus, and we're honored to host them."
The Tech/Southern Arkansas game will be played Saturday, Oct. 12 at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field. A 6 p.m. kickoff is scheduled.