Little Rock, Arkansas -
BENTON, AR - As temperatures rise, a Benton family is encouraging other Central Arkansans to use nose plugs when swimming in lakes or rivers.
"Go buy one, it's worth it," says Traci Hardig.
Hardig's daughter, Kali, got parasitic meningitis in 2013. She's only the third person since 1962 that's known to have survived the illness. She got the rare infection from swimming at Willow Springs Water Park in Little Rock.
"It's just hard to believe that could happen," Hardig says.
Kali spent 55 days in the hospital, which is when Traci found out the brain eating illness enters the body through the nose while people swim in lakes or rivers.
In rare cases, a person can become infected from improperly chlorinated swimming pools.
Doctors say wearing a nose plug can help prevent infection.
"We are encouraging everyone if they swim in freshwater above 80 degrees, please wear your nose plug," she says.
Kali gave a news conference at Arkansas Children's Hospital after her hospital stay and went through intense therapy sessions.
But now, she is back in school and using her story to encourage others to use a nose plug.
"I know it can be real bad. It can kill you," says Kali.
The 13-year-old doesn't want to discourage people from swimming in lakes, but gives simple advice.
"Be cautious," she says.
Kali says when she heads to swim this summer, she plans to use her own words of wisdom.
"Just the way everyone has been talking about it, it's making me more cautious of it now," says the survivor.
After witnessing her daughter experience pain for more than a month and a half, Traci wants to help other parents.
"You don't want your child or any of your family members to have to go through what we went through this summer," Traci says.
The water park where Kali got the infection doesn't offer swimming anymore, instead it is a fishing camp.
Click here for more information on parasitic meningitis.
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