Mail, Gifts Pour in for Panhandle Shark Attack Victim

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The 8-year-old boy who lost nearly all his blood and an arm in a Gulf coast shark attack two weeks ago improved from critical to serious condition Friday.

Jesse Arbogast remained in a light coma and doctors described him as acutely ill. But he is no longer in immediate danger of dying, said Rob Patterson, a pediatric intensive care specialist at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital.

"Jessie is beginning to respond to external stimulation like changes in noise and light," Patterson said in a Web site posting.

The boy continues to receive dialysis treatment to help repair kidneys damaged by blood loss from the July 6 attack. Surgeons were able to reattach Jessie's right arm, which was recovered when the 6-foot shark was pulled out of the sea by the boy's uncle and another beachgoer.

Gifts and support are pouring into the hospital for the boy and his Ocean Springs, Miss., family.

As of noon Friday, they had received more than 1,000 e-mails and more than 3,000 pieces of mail, including gifts of food, toys, flowers and money, hospital officials said. An 88-year-old World War II veteran in Mississippi offered to come to Florida to donate blood.

Many of the get-well wishes are from children. A card from "Mariah Topeka KS" was addressed only "To the boy that was bitten by the shark, He's in the hospital, Pensacola Florida."

Soile Hamalainen of Pickering, Ontario, sent an e-mail saying that she remembers Jessie daily in her thoughts and prayers.

"When I first heard of Jessie's accident, I was horrified mainly because I was also attacked by a shark last January," she wrote. "This happened in Cuba. We are not sure what shark attacked me but it could also have been a bull shark."

She added that her left arm was badly mangled, although not bitten off, and she also lost a large amount of blood.

"In my case, it is a miracle that I am alive and I thank God for it," Hamalainen wrote. "I understand that it also (is) a miracle that Jessie is alive."