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Young shark victim goes home

Jessie Arbogast
Jessie Arbogast  

PENSACOLA, Florida (CNN) -- Eight-year-old Jessie Arbogast, the victim of a brutal shark attack off the coast of Florida last month, ended a five-week hospital stay Sunday and returned by ambulance to his Mississippi home.

Doctors released Jessie from Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, where he was transferred after doctors at another facility reattached his arm.

Hospital officials said he will continue outpatient rehabilitation at his home in Ocean Springs, about 96 miles from Pensacola, "with the help of home health nurses, physical therapists, and physicians."

Jessie was swimming with his family in shallow waters off the Florida Panhandle July 6 when a bull shark tore off his right arm and bit off a large chunk of his leg. His uncle dragged the shark to shore, where a park ranger shot and killed it and retrieved the boy's arm.

On the Scene: Still long road ahead for shark victim  
CNN Access: Park ranger describes victim's rescue  

Doctors at Sacred Heart said Jessie has "clearly" improved since the accident, but they said his condition has changed only slightly in recent weeks.

"When he left, he was having periods of wakefulness in which his eyes were open, and he would move spontaneously, but not to command," said Dr. Tim Livingston, a pediatric neurologist.

"He, at this point, does not appear to communicate purposefully, but appears to have some improvement in his movements and his sleep/awake states since his arrival."

Livingston said it will be difficult to judge how much recovery Jessie will make until six months or a year from now.

A lifeguard stands over the Bull shark that attacked Arbogast  

"I feel that it's nothing short of a miracle that he has come this far and has been able to, actually, survive," said Livingston.

Jimmy Phares, a paramedic for Acadian Ambulance Service that transported Jessie free of charge from Sacred Heart to his home, said the boy rested comfortably during the ride.

Jessie lay on a stretcher with his mother and another paramedic beside him during the two-hour trip, Phares said. Phares said he talked to the boy and his mother, but declined to say more out of respect for the family.

"We needed no special equipment," Phares said. "It's just a standard ambulance with all the advanced life support equipment."

The company donated the ride to be "good corporate citizens" in a town that has rallied behind the recovering 8-year-old.

"Everybody knows about Jessie down here," Phares said. "It's a big community effort. There have been blood drives, there have been fund-raisers, there are a lot of yellow ribbons on telephone poles."

Businesses even posted welcome home messages on their marquees, he said.

Discussions about transferring Jessie from the hospital back home began one or two weeks ago, according to his doctors.

"We were just waiting for the home situation to be ready, and for the final sort of OK from all the specialists that they no longer have inpatient care," said Dr. Robert Patterson, a pediatric intensive care specialist.

Patterson said doctors worked with Jessie's parents on arranging suitable care at home.

"We've done our best to allow them to make trips home and back, and get things set up and meet the people who are going to be taking care of him," Patterson said. "There's also some excitement, and I think some relief, to get back to what has been an incredible interruption in their normal family life."

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

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