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8-year-old shark victim breathing on his own

Dr. Ian Rogers: "We're all keeping our fingers crossed."  

PENSACOLA, Florida (CNN) -- Doctors said Thursday that 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast is breathing on his own, nearly a week after he was attacked by a shark at a Florida beach.

"Jessie is now breathing completely on his own after being weaned off the ventilator earlier this afternoon," said Dr. Rex Northup, the doctor in charge of Arbogast's care at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital.

"His right arm is healing well. The leg injury is responding well to the pig skin graft. Another dressing change is expected over the weekend."

Doctors grafted pig skin over the wound on Jessie's leg as a temporary "biological dressing," said Dr. Ian Rogers, who helped reattach Jessie's right arm and performed surgery on his right thigh.

Northup said Jessie will undergo another surgery to prepare his leg for a final skin graft on Monday.

CNN's Brian Cabell reports on how Jessie Arbogast is faring (July 9)

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Dr. Greg Smith talks about Jessie's chances of recovery (July 8)

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On the scene: Outlook mixed for Jessie  
On the scene: Biggest threat is brain damage  
Jessie's uncle makes 911 call
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A woman makes 911 call after the shark attack
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Earlier in the day, Gov. Jeb Bush paid a short visit to Arbogast's parents.

"I met the mom and dad of the child and just told them that there are millions of Floridians, and I'm certain millions of Americans, that are praying for them and for the recovery of their child," Bush told reporters as he left the hospital.

Bush talked briefly to the parents in the hallway outside Jessie's room but did not go in to see the boy.

Despite now breathing on his own, Jessie remained in a coma and in critical but stable condition.

"He may look a little bit better, but progress is measured now in hair widths," Rogers told CNN. "It's going to be a little bit at a time."

Northup said he is pleased with Jessie's progress.

"He is spontaneously opening his eyes. He blinks appropriately when his cornea is touched. It is unclear whether he is focusing on objects," Northup said. "The healing of the injuries to Jessie's arm and leg look good. The arm is warm and pink with a very strong pulse."

Jessie, who recently completed second grade, was wading in knee-deep water at a beach off the Florida Panhandle, about 90 minutes from his home in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, when the shark struck last Friday.

A 7-foot bull shark severed his right arm and bit a large chunk of muscle from his right thigh. His uncle, Vance Flosenzier of Mobile, Alabama, stopped the attack and wrestled the shark to shore.

A park ranger then shot and killed the shark. As Jessie was airlifted to the hospital, emergency medical technicians retrieved his arm from inside the shark's mouth and brought it to the hospital in an ambulance.

His arm was reattached during nearly 12 hours of surgery.

Doctors have said it is likely Jessie suffered some type of brain injury. Northup explained the brain is particularly vulnerable to severe blood loss, which causes organs to swell as they attempt to heal.

Jessie has also undergone several rounds of kidney dialysis because of the massive blood loss.

"My heart goes out to him and to his family," Bush said. "This is a extraordinary occurrence. I honestly believe God has a plan for all of us, and sometimes the plan doesn't lay out in a clear way, and we'll see how this plays out, but I just hope that he recovers and he is healthy when he does recover."

So far, Rogers said, there is no sign of infection. "We're all keeping our fingers crossed that this progress continues," he said. "When you've got nothing, a little bit is a lot."

• Gulf Islands National Seashore (National Park Service)
• International Shark Attack File
• Sacred Heart Children's Hospital
• Welcome to

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