Faced with a harrowing diagnosis, a 12-year-old Florida boy is in critical condition this week after being infected with an amoeba that is literally destroying his brain. Even more alarming are the stats he faces: 99 percent of similar cases end in death.
Zachary Reyna was a active 7th grader just a few weeks ago, playing on the baseball team and palling around with his older brother. But all that changed after a day of knee-boarding with his friends on August 3, CNN reports. The boys played in a water-filled ditch by Reyna's house, and when he came home, he was so tired he slept straight through to the next day. His mother, seeing that something was wrong, brought him straight to the doctor. There he was diagnosed with amoebic meningoencephalitis, a virus caused by a rare amoeba that lives in hot springs and warm, fresh water. Its known to travel through the nose and, when penetrated into the brain, attacks its defenses.
Shockingly, this is the second case of its kind to hit headlines in the last month alone. The first was Kali Hardig, another 12-year-old, this time from Arkansas. And while the survival rate for the virus is certainly bleak, Hardig might be one of the lucky ones. Thanks to an experimental drug, Hardig is making progress, and he has been released from the ICU; but it isn't yet known if Reyna is receiving the same treatment.
In an interview with CNN, Reyna's brother, Brandon Villarreal, spoke of the family's determination to remain positive despite the odds, as well as Reyna's natural fighting spirit.
"It's just tough to see him like this," said Brandon. "I wish I could just touch him and it would transfer over [to me] or something."