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Shark victim more responsive every day

Jessie appeared to be trying to speak on Saturday, a doctor says
Jessie appeared to be trying to speak on Saturday, a doctor says  


PENSACOLA, Florida (CNN) -- Nine days after he was mauled by a shark in shallow waters off Florida's Gulf Coast, Jessie Arbogast's doctors say he appears to be making slow, steady progress.

"We've seen every day that he seems a little bit more responsive," Dr. Juliet De Campos told NBC's Today Show on Sunday.

On Saturday, the boy used his uninjured left hand to squeeze his grandfather's hand after being asked to do so, she said, adding: "That was very good news."

The boy was in critical but stable condition Sunday in the pediatric intensive care unit at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital.

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Researcher tries to nail down cause of attack
 
 

Arbogast's grandfather had suggested earlier in the week that the boy would do anything for a Snickers bar, De Campos said. "I gave that a shot yesterday," she said.

As she waved the candy bar above him, "his eyes fixed on the bar and followed it around," she said. The boy appeared to be trying to say something, she said.

Arbogast, who had just completed second grade in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, was wading in knee-deep water off Pensacola July 6 when he was attacked by a 7-foot bull shark. It severed his right arm, just below his shoulder, and bit a large chunk of thigh muscle from his right leg.

The shark was shot so Jessie's arm could be removed from its gullet
The shark was shot so Jessie's arm could be removed from its gullet  

Surgeons reattached the arm at Baptist Hospital. They are planning Monday to perform a skin graft on his thigh, where the shark tore out a large chunk of flesh from above his knee, said Dr. Ian Rogers.

"I think his progress is speaking for itself at the present time," Rogers told NBC's Today Show. "Every day, we seem to progress a little bit further."

The doctors have enlisted the family to help in the boy's recovery, De Campos said. "Dr. Rogers and I decided that, instead of having the hand therapist work on his range of motion on the reattached arm, it would be good for the family to realize it's firmly attached," she said.

Doctors had worried that brain swelling brought on by blood loss from the injuries might cause the boy's brain to stop functioning. Arbogast's neurologist, Dr. Ben Renfroe at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital, said Saturday that is no longer a concern. A magnetic resonance image, or MRI, showed no structural damage to Arbogast's brain, Renfroe said, but it is not known whether the boy has suffered permanent mental impairments.

Rogers said Arbogast's arm is healing well. He said he doubts the boy will ever have full use of his arm, but it will probably be "functional."

The boy has been breathing on his own since he was taken off of a ventilator Thursday. A breathing tube used to keep his airway clear was removed Friday.






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