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    Doctor says boy attacked by shark is awake

    ©Associated Press

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published August 4, 2001

    PENSACOLA -- The 8-year-old boy who had an arm reattached after a shark attack in the Florida Panhandle is awake and can focus on people around him, his doctor said Friday.

    "He's awake as opposed to being asleep," Dr. Ian Rogers told NBC's Today show. "His ability to focus on people and objects, it originally was not too good, and now it's picking up and he's beginning to focus quite well."

    Jessie Arbogast's kidney function has improved to the point that he no longer needs dialysis, Rogers said.

    The boy still remains in a light coma, however.

    "His neurological condition is progressing slowly, but nonetheless in a positive direction," Rogers said. "He's got a long road ahead of him still."

    Jessie was attacked by a 61/2-foot bull shark at Langdon Beach 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 and reported Friday that it is healing well.

    Jessie also had a severe bite to a leg.

    "He'll have a functional deficit," Rogers said. "He'll have some difficulty straightening up his knee. He's lost a large volume of the muscles in his thigh that perform this function."

    But skin grafts covering the large wound on his leg have fully taken, Rogers said.

    Later Friday, Sacred Heart Children's Hospital released an update describing Jessie's condition as serious but adding that he "continues to make slow progress in recovering."

    The hospital reported that Jessie's doctors are optimistic about Jessie's progress although they expect it will take several months, perhaps a year, before his recovery is complete.

    And there is no guarantee he will fully recover, doctors said.

    To help

    Family members have set up the Jessie Arbogast Medical Fund to receive contributions toward the shark victim's expenses. Donations can be made to account number 012428229, c/o Hancock Bank, P.O. Drawer 609, Ocean Springs, Miss. 39566.

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