After surviving a brain-eating amoeba at 22 years old, a Florida camp counselor became a living miracle. He is one of four people worldwide to have done so.
Sebastian DeLeon was a camp worker in 2016, when he decided to take a dip in a pond. He was dead in a matter of days.
“I told my mom and my dad, I was like, ‘Yo, I cannot move. There’s something really wrong.’ And they were like, ‘OK, we’re taking you to the hospital.’ The actual feeling was like a rock sitting on top of my head. Eventually, they gave me morphine for the pain, because it was so intense,”DeLeon added.
Then came the stunning diagnosis — Naegleria fowleri, an extremely rare, but almost always fatal infection.
DeLeon had to be put in a medically induced coma for a week.
“It’s fatal. I mean, it can do a significant amount of damage in a very short time,” neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez said. “It could literally swim up this boy’s nose and went into his brain and started eating away at it. Literally, a brain-eating amoeba. And it’s terrifying, ‘cause you can’t even see it without a microscope.”
There’s only one drug available to treat the fatal organism. It’s an anti-parasitic called Impavido, but is only available at a handful of hospitals.
“He’s very fortunate that the hospital either had the medication or was able to get it to him very quickly,” Hafeez said.
What can you do to ensure safety while swimming in lakes and ponds?
You want to ensure that there isn’t any algae growth. Your best bet is to swim in areas where there’s water flow. Avoid it if it is just stagnant.
In Sebastian’s case, his mom had actually warned him about the pond.
“My mom, she had told me, ‘Hey, the water doesn’t look good. You shouldn’t go in it.’ It was green and it was kind of icky looking,”DeLeon added.
The life-threatening infection happened six years ago, and it’s taken a lot of grueling physical therapy for him to relearn basic tasks, including walking, writing and speaking.