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"He's blinking," says Breanne Arrigo Reilly, "and he's swallowing. They said he never would." She is talking about her nephew, Jesse James Arrigo, who very nearly drowned earlier this year.

"The accident happened when he was 10 months old." Jesse James fell into the family pond in Toronto in May. "It...happened in my grandparent's back yard." Although CPR was started immediately, by the time paramedics arrived the baby had no vital signs. At the hospital, doctors said he would not survive.

But he did. When Baby Jesse was eventually taken off life support, he kept breathing on his own. Still, doctors cautioned the family against any false hopes. The boy's brain injuries, they said, were irreversible.

"But he's a fighter," Reilly says. "He's overcome everything the doctors said he wouldn't be able to do."

Reilly is a member of BETAMAXX, a local 80's tribute band. In October, they will stage a benefit show to help cover the mounting medical expenses that Jesse James' family faces. They hope to raise as much as $25,000 dollars, which pales in comparison to the child's health care bills to date.

"He was in the hospital for two months," Reilly says. "He requires 40 hours of nursing a week." With the family's insurance close to maxing out, she says that her sister is being trained to take over the nursing care herself.

"And if the health care won't cover the cost of the medications, they will have to sell their house." She says the family has gotten Baby Jesse some treatments in a hyperbaric chamber, and she thinks they are paying off.

"He's tracking things with his eyes now. He is feeling things like pain," she says. "He actually cried a few weeks ago, which is a huge success."

She stops for a moment and reflects on how life can turn on a dime. Then she says this: "There are a lot of little signs of hope. As long as he's fighting, we'll fight with him."

BETAMAXX: Baby Jesse James fundraiser Weds October 24, Belly Up, Solana Beach, doors 7 p.m.



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