SAN DIEGO, California - A 1-year-old girl who fell ill during her family's sailing voyage and was rescued 900 miles from the Mexican coast has been responding well to medication after showing salmonella-like symptoms, her aunt said Monday as she waited for a Navy warship carrying the family to arrive to San Diego.
Lyra Kaufman was checked by military medical personnel after being boarded onto the USS Vandegrift on Sunday morning, but her illness has not yet been diagnosed by a physician, said her aunt, Sariah English, whose sister, Charlotte Kaufman, called her from the warship.
After taking medication from the rescue crews, Lyra's fever was gone, English said.
"That's been a relief for them to see that their daughter is responding to the medication now and is a healthy and happy baby again," she said, adding that the family was also enjoying the ship's hot showers, hot meals and space after being cramped on sailboat.
The frigate was more than 1,000 miles from San Diego on Monday and was expected to arrive midweek.
Charlotte Kaufman, her husband, Eric Kaufman, and their two children, Lyra and her 3-year-old sister, Cora, were starting across the Pacific on a trip around the world when the baby's illness and mechanical problems on the boat forced them to call the Coast Guard via satellite Thursday. Their 36-foot sailboat, Rebel Heart, lost its steering and communication abilities about 900 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Their youngest by then was suffering from a fever, diarrhea, and vomiting, English said. A rash also covered her body.
"I can only imagine the stress of having a sick baby on board and then, `Oh gosh, the boat is not working!' That's why they called in for help," English said.
The girl had salmonella in Mexico, where the San Diego family had been living briefly before heading out across the Pacific. Her pediatrician had assured her parents that she was recovered and safe to travel, English said.
When the symptoms surfaced, the parents called the pediatrician and gave their daughter antibiotics, but she did not respond to them.
Four California Air National Guard members parachuted into the water and reached the boat Thursday night. The crew stabilized the girl, stayed by her side and then hopped on an inflatable boat with the family to board the USS Vandegrift on Sunday morning. Authorities decided to sink the Rebel Heart because it was taking on water.
The family took only what they could carry from the broken boat -- three bags -- and they were disappointed to lose the sailboat they called home.
It is too soon to know if the family will try to revive their plans to sail the world, English said, adding that the "traumatic situation has left them tired and overwhelmed."
Eric Kaufman is a Coast Guard-licensed captain, and the couple issued a statement Sunday defending their decision to sail with their small children amid criticism.
"We understand there are those who question our decision to sail with our family, but please know that this is how our family has lived for seven years, and when we departed on this journey more than a year ago, we were then and remain today confident that we prepared as well as any sailing crew could," the San Diego couple said in a statement from the USS Vandegrift.
"The ocean is one of the greatest forces of nature, and it always has the potential to overcome those who live on or near it. We are proud of our choices and our preparation," the statement said.
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