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Doctors Update Status of Florida Shark Attack Victim

Aired July 13, 2001 - 12:07   ET


STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to take viewers now from China to Florida, where doctors and the director of admissions at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital are giving us an update on that 8- year-old who was attacked by a shark a week ago.

This is Sister Jean Rhoads, who is the vice president of admissions.

Let's listen to Sister Rhoads.


SISTER JEAN RHOADS, SACRED HEART CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Jessie's family continues to receive many e-mails, not just nationally, but internationally.

Their only difficulty is, they don't speak so many languages. And so they are having some difficulty in translating some of these well-wishes.

They continue to view every small step as a very positive sign of hope. And because of their faith, they look upon this, again, as the road to complete recovery for Jessie.

Just to give you a sense of what they're like, when the governor, Bush, was so kind to visit with them yesterday, they thought: Well, maybe we'll give them a picture as a keepsake so they could show Jessie later on.

And they refused that. They said: "No, when Jessie is better, then Jessie can have his photo taken with the governor."

That just gives you a sense of the beautiful family that we have watching over Jessie. And we join that family and all members of our intensive care nurse unit in prayerful support that all will have a good outcome.

Those are the ends of my comments. I'll be happy to answer questions.

QUESTION: I'm curious: The family apparently has had to go through a difficult test like this before with an older son who was also in a coma. Have they referred to that? Have they talked about that? RHOADS: Yes. And that son has visited Jessie and also has extended positive affirmation to another patient in the intensive care unit, because, again, he's been there. He was in a coma for three weeks. And he himself came through beautifully. He is perfectly well.

QUESTION: Has the family said anything like: "I can't believe -- why me?"

RHOADS: No. Oh, no. Oh, no, no. no.

This family, they have such a great sense of faith. Life just happens. And we deal with life as it occurs. And somehow God is in the midst of this. So their faith is pulling them through. There is a great sense of peace in their hearts.

QUESTION: They seem very private. How are they responding to all of this -- like you say -- international attention? Suddenly, they are the focus.

RHOADS: Again, their focus remains on Jessie. They are overwhelmed by the sense of the flowers and the e-mails and the food that keeps arriving for them. But their total focus remains on their son.

QUESTION: Do they get the sense that Jessie recognizes them at all?

RHOADS: I don't know that.

Thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Rex Northup, the pediatric intensivist who has been overseeing Jessie's care since his arrival here on Sunday, will speak next.

Dr. Northup.


I would like to, first and foremost, echo a lot of the thoughts that Sister Jean expressed, that the family truly continues to be a rather amazing source of inspiration to all of us that are working with Jessie, as well as to other families and patients in the intensive care unit itself. Their steadfast belief that Jessie is going to get better is really amazing and helps to strengthen the rest of us as we are working with him.

The question that was raised in reference to their other child is one that they really have referred to those experiences, but rather than referring to them in the negative, as why is this happening to us? Why did it happen in the first place to our older child? Why is it happening again? Has really not been expressed at all.

They have been very positive about all of these things. They have used that to reflect back when we talked to them about this being a long, drawn-out ordeal and it is something going to be an hour-by- hour, day-by-day process that may involve looking at weeks or months of rehab, they will simply reflect back on the statement that yes, we're familiar with that, we've been through this before, and we are prepared and ready to do whatever is necessary in order to hopefully obtain the same outcome and the positive results that they were fortunate to obtain in their other child.

And that certainly is the goal that we have as we work with Jessie and work with the whole team of providers that we've pulled together here and that are available for us, fortunately, in the community to deal with this type of thing.

Jessie is stable. I'm going to let Dr. Rob Patterson, who is covering the peds intensive care unit today give update on the plans that we have discussed and talked about later, but reflect again a minute on the other issue, as Sister Jean mentioned, that not only in this pediatric critical care unit, but in others pediatric critical care units, literally around the world, that this type of an ordeal is faced repeatedly by the staff and the families and these patients; and that this certainly is a somewhat unique and unusual situation here, with the shark attack and all of the heroics and things that took place at the scene and have taken place since.

But we've had a number of families in this intensive care unit itself going through similar horrendous events. And to see the strength that is displayed between those families and that Jessie and his family have extended to each other is really something that's incredible to witness. Something, I think, that continues to strengthen all of us.

I also want to reflect on some of the unsung heroes. I know that myself, Dr. Rogers, Dr. Tyson and some of these others keep getting up in front of the camera to report on Jessie, and I look at that as an extreme privilege. But there really is a tremendous amount of work that goes on behind the scenes by the nursing staff, respiratory therapists, lab people, radiology, support folks and others that allow this type of service to be provided. And it really is a true community resource in this community and in other communities. And hopefully we'll be able to continue to meet the needs of Jessie and his family as they continue to deal with this.

And what I'd like to do now, as I say, is to let Dr. Rob Patterson, who is my partner in the pediatric critical care unit, come up and address some of his specific situation right now; what the plans through the day will involve, that type of thing. And then if you all have questions, we'll be glad to answer those. Thank you.

DR. ROB PATTERSON, SACRED HEART CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Good morning. The situation as it stands today is we remain cautiously optimistic, I think has been the phrase that's been used, and I think it continues to be appropriate this morning. I have been in long consultation with Jessie's family at Jessie's bedside. They continue to have, as Sister Jean said, a positive outlook. They have a lot of appropriate questions, and our understanding of what Jessie's condition is. Jessie neurologically, I think, is our main focus right now. His condition is such that he is no longer in a deep coma, more of the details of that will be discussed by Dr. Renfroe here in a minute. But certainly this morning he appears to be, although not responding to light stimulation, he certainly responds to pain and deep stimulation, and we have every reason to be encouraged.

Through the night he continued to breathe on his own with minimal support from the ventilator. And one of the big steps today will be Jessie's first trial off of mechanical ventilation without an intertracheal tube, which is the plastic tube which has been doing a lot of the breathing for him since he's been here.

Jessie did undergo one procedure this morning. We changed out a large central line and replaced it with a new one. This is to prevent -- and our ongoing concern of infections, which could set in at any time that a child is in a hospital and is somewhat compromised. He shows no signs of infection currently, and we're doing everything we can to keep it that way.

During this procedure, he did respond appropriately to some painful stimulation, and we did provide a lot of pharmacologic therapies, and some medicines for comfort. And it is nice to see that he is perceiving discomfort; and is nice to have that necessity to continue to provide comfort care for him.

We will be starting a different dialysis mode today to support his kidneys. He received dialysis on an intermittent daily basis up until yesterday. Yesterday he went without dialysis, in hopes that he would make some urine -- his kidneys would function on their own. They did show some activity; some urine was made, but not enough. And so today we're going to switch to a mode called continuous venovenous hemodialysis, which is a very gentle form of dialysis on the kidneys, and what we hope will provide the most stable environment for his neurologic support as well as for his continued renal improvement.

QUESTION: When you said that he responded to the appropriate pain, what exactly -- did you move his leg, move his arm...

PATTERSON: He opens his eyes. He doesn't focus on individuals right now. But he does open his eyes widely when stimulated either by loud noise or by, like I said, the procedure -- before we got started we wanted to see how much he was responding, how much sensation he had in the area around his catheter. He responded appropriately, and so we provided some narcotic relief for that.

He does, when you put his -- his arm that was not bitten into an uncomfortable position, he does try to move that into a position of comfort. He wiggles his toes. As yet, we don't have a sense that, on any continuous basis, he knows exactly where he is or the details of what's going on around him. But he does respond to outside stimuli.

QUESTION: When you say that he wiggles his toe, does he do it just on his own, or do you ask him, and is there a sense of some sort of consciousness? QUESTION: We couldn't -- intermittently it looks like he does it when we ask him to, but that's not a consistent finding. He does that more to stimulation, he'll wiggle his toes and move his feet. He does that on both the injured leg and the non-injured leg.

QUESTION: Do you get the sense that he's getting closer to full consciousness?

QUESTION: I think we -- since Wednesday we've seen some small, positive steps. Neurologic recovery is a difficult thing to predict in pediatrics. It is regardless of the etiology of why a child is in a coma or has neurologic injury.

We know that at some point children will reach a plateau of neurologic recovery. But where that occurs, and at -- during what time frame that occurs is very unpredictable. There's a concept...

FRAZIER: These are the comments of Dr. Rob Patterson of the Sacred Heart Children's Hospital in Pensacola, Florida, giving us a medical update on 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast, the child who, just a week ago tonight was playing in shallow water on a beach off Pensacola when he was attacked by a shark.

The news is that Jessie is no longer in a deep coma. He is responding to stimulation. He has no signs of infection. He does perceive some discomfort; if they test him by creating some pain, he responds to that. They are keeping his kidneys healthy on dialysis. And they believe that his progress is improving, and it's a consistent flow of progress to a better state.



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