(NEW YORK) — It’s a sight no one expected to see. Kali Hardig, the 12-year-old girl who beat the odds, is now standing, smiling and, for the first time, speaking about her dramatic brush with death.
“I was real sick,” Hardig told ABC News. “Momma wouldn’t leave the hospital at all. Momma was scared to leave me. She told me.”
Nine weeks ago, young Hardig contracted a killer brain-eating infection at an Arkansas water park that has since closed.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been only 128 known infections like Hardig’s in the United States in the past 50 years. Hardig is the third person to survive that particular form of parasitic meningitis.
And even more remarkably, on Wednesday, Hardig’s going home, finally leaving the Arkansas Children’s Hospital where she’s been fighting for her life since July 19.
“Yeah, I’m ready to go home,” she said.
When asked what she’s going to do when she gets there, she immediately replied, “Play with Chloe. My dog, Chloe. I have a little Yorkie. She’s about 1. And I’m going to play with her and lie on my bed.”
Hardig has undergone intensive therapy and takes special medication flown in from Germany, but doctors said it was the speed with which her mother, Traci Hardig, brought her to the hospital that made all the difference.
“Can you remember what you said … the first time you spoke to me?” Traci asked her daughter.
“‘Momma,’” Kali replied. “And mom was ecstatic.”
Now, with a renewed lease on life, Kali said — with a big smile — that she’s got even bigger plans.
“I plan to become a hair stylist and do hair,” she said. “Yup, that’s my dream.”
Kali’s doctor said it’s hoped that she’ll go back to school on Sept. 16 for the first half of the day, and continue therapy in the second half of the day.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio