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Long recovery expected for shark victim

Jessie Arbogast
Jessie Arbogast is still in has been called a light coma.  

PENSACOLA, Florida (CNN) -- Doctors said Friday it may be more than a year before the full extent of recovery is known for an 8-year-old boy who had an arm reattached after a shark attack last month.

Jessie Arbogast remains in serious condition in a light coma at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital in Pensacola and continues to show improvement.

"It may be a year to 18 months before the full potential of his reattached arm is known," according to a new statement posted at the hospital's Web site that seeks to answer some of the questions most frequently asked about the boy.

It will also be a year before the extent of his brain injury may be known, as well, the statement said.

Hospital spokesman Mike Burke said the youth's vital signs are stable and his wounds continue to heal. His kidney functions continue to improve; he was taken off dialysis last week.

He remains in what has been called a light coma, which means that at times Jessie sleeps and at other times his eyes are open. But it is not known how much he is aware of.

"There are times it appears he focuses on people, and there are times he is staring off," Burke said. "He has never communicated in the way you and I would think about it. It's not that kind of thing where he's communicating and understanding. We don't know if he understands things."

Daily physical and occupational therapy sessions on his non-injured limbs began earlier this week, according to a statement released Thursday on the hospital's Web site.

Jessie was attacked by a bull shark near Pensacola on July 6. His uncle wrestled the shark to shore and Jesse's arm was retrieved from its jaws. Doctors reattached it during 11 hours of surgery.

Jessie's parents have kept a round-the-clock vigil at their son's bedside. The hospital statement said "they talk to him, constantly touch to connect with him physically, and massage him to further work at stimulating his senses.

"They also play his favorite music and recorded messages from friends and family, read aloud to him and keep the television set in his room on his favorite cartoons."

This is not the first family tragedy for the Arbogasts. According to the New York Post, Jessie's older brother Dustin was in a coma for three weeks after he was hit by a car in 1994 when he was 9 years old. He recovered and is now in good health.

• Gulf Islands National Seashore
• International Shark Attack File
• Sacred Heart Children's Hospital

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