Archive for Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Shark-attack victim in coma; evidence of brain injury grows

July 11, 2001


— Doctors said Tuesday that the 8-year-old boy who survived a shark attack in the Florida surf is in a coma and likely suffered a brain injury.

Jessie Arbogast appears, however, to have avoided potentially fatal brain swelling, Dr. Tim Livingston said. The boy, he added, did not seem to be worsening.

"He likely has suffered a brain injury and that very well could be significant for him," he said. "We do have evidence that his brain is not functioning correctly."

Surgeons reattached Jessie's right arm after it was bitten off by the 7-foot bull shark Friday. He also suffered a severe leg wound and was nearly drained of blood, which harmed virtually every organ in his body and raised the possibility of brain damage.

Doctors had not used the term coma before Tuesday, though the boy has been in critical condition since the attack. Livingston said tests showed brain activity akin to deep sleep or a light coma.

It was too early to tell the extent of any brain damage, but studies show that most recovery occurs during the first two weeks after such an injury, Livingston said.

Jessie was undergoing more dialysis for kidney failure and surgery Tuesday to place temporary grafts on his leg wound.

Hospital staffers have said Jessie blinked and nodded in response to questions hours after his arm was reattached.

But he has not responded in that fashion since Sunday, said Dr. Rex Northup, a pediatric physician who oversees the intensive care unit at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital.

"The most we have seen is some eye blinking," he said.

The boy was attacked in the surf at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. His aunt and uncle used beach towels to stanch the bleeding.

Jessie's uncle and another beachgoer wrestled the shark ashore, where it was shot and the severed arm was pulled out of its gullet.

A tape recording of the 911 call from the boy's uncle, Vance Flosenzier of Mobile, Ala., indicated the man initially thought his nephew had lost his right leg as well as the arm.

"They're completely gone?" the dispatcher asked.

"Completely gone," Flosenzier replied. "He's lost a lot of blood."

Flosenzier also said that the boy was not breathing and had no pulse but that his wife and another man were performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

"I just hope he survives," said Gov. Jeb Bush, who on Thursday will be in Pensacola and hopes to meet with the boy's parents. "It's an incredible story."

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