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Nov. 21 event at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park benefits near-drowning victim

SPRING HILL — Doctors and fire rescuers continue to marvel at what they call Kimberly Allis' "miraculous" survival.

On Jan. 5, 2004, at the age of 18 months, she crawled off the living room couch, made her way outside and fell into the family's swimming pool. Family members each thought the other had been watching over her.

Grandmother Pamela Allis discovered Kimberly in the water, where she may have been for up to five minutes. A retired nurse, she administered CPR while frantically calling 911.

Spring Hill Fire Rescue paramedics sped her to Spring Hill Regional Hospital, where the first faint sign of life, a slight pulse, was detected. She was flown to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg where she remained mostly comatose, hooked to life-support machines, for a month.

"She suffered a hypoxic episode, a long time without getting oxygen to her brain," explained Gabe Croft of the Hernando Fire Rescue Local 3760.

"It's not easy to see your child in a nonresponsive state,'' said her father, John Allis. "They asked me twice to pull the plug."

For more than five years, Kimberly has fought the lingering results from that near-death experience. Saturday, her rescuers and friends are having what they hope will be another miracle of sorts as they raise money to buy the family medical equipment Kimberly needs for further recovery.

Especially needed is a home hyperbaric unit to help her get two high-dosage infusion sessions of oxygen a day. The unit carries a price tag of $7,000 to $10,000.

Organized by Hernando Fire Rescue Local 3760 and Spring Hill Fire Rescue Local 2749, the event begins at 10 a.m. at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

"(Both groups) have taken her to Shands (at the University of Florida) so many times and we know the family is financially strapped," said Croft, the event co-chairman. His counterpart with the Spring Hill group is Jeff Palmer.

Competitions between the fire rescue units will begin about noon with a firefighter challenge, a timed event for rescuers getting into their bunker gear, running upstairs and returning to the ground bearing a stretcher.

A volleyball tournament between units will follow, then a horseshoes competition and a corncob toss. Barbecue platters, beverages and beer will be available for purchase.

Kimberly has been treated by the oxygen infusion device at Ocean Hyperbaric Neurological Center in Lauderdale-by-the Sea. The intense delivery into the bloodstream energizes deflated brain cells and inflates and stabilizes severely impaired brain tissue, doctors at the clinic say.

But Medicaid does not cover the procedure and no insurer the family has contacted will cover a pre-existing condition such as Kimberly's.

The hyperbolic treatments cost $400 a day, and the family has paid for 80 treatments. The first treatment released Kimberly's hands; the next gave her arm movement.

"She has no control of her head," Pamela Allis lamented. "She follows with her eyes; she is totally cognitive; she has great hearing; she can't verbalize except for a word or two here.''

She added, "She's a flirt."

The paramedics from Hernando Fire Rescue and Spring Hill Fire Rescue didn't learn of Kimberly's recovery for some time. They thought she had died.

Since then, when they've brought another victim to any hospital or facility where Kimberly is staying, rescuers have visited her, Pamela said.

"When they heard she made it, they always asked about her," she said. "They stop in to see her."

Kimberly is in a wheelchair, designated a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. She is a patient-student at Tender Care Medical Services, a clinic-school on Commercial Way that provides multiple therapies and schooling for special-needs students from infancy to age 21.

Supporting the school and Kimberly are her father, John, 28, who is now a stay-at-home dad taking off from his job as a network engineer at Gary Shawney International in Spring Hill. Kimberly is the only child of John and Jessica Allis, who are now divorced.

Also devoted to the cause are the girl's stepmother, Lisa Allis, 31, an assistant manager at Coach Leather at Citrus Park mall, and grandparents, Pamela and Joseph Allis.

The event Saturday will lead off, appropriately, with a water safety seminar. Admission is free although donation containers will be placed around the park to help the Allis family.

"We have to put our trust in God,'' said Pamela Allis. "We are doing everything humanely possible. She is too precious to give up."

Beth Gray can be reached at graybethn@earthlink.com.

To help

The Hernando Fire Rescue Local 3760 and Spring Hill Fire Rescue Local 2749 event to benefit the Allis family begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.

Nov. 21 event at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park benefits near-drowning victim 11/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 19, 2009 7:43pm]
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