Boy infected with 'brain-eating' amoeba to be taken off life support

For about 20 days, Zacharay Reyna was treated in Miami after getting infected with a rare parasite in Fort Myers


MIAMI, Fla. – The 12-year-old boy, who contracted a "brain-eating" amoeba while playing in a water-filled ditch, will go off life support after donating organs, the family posted on Facebook.

Seventh-grader Zachary Reyna fell ill on August 3rd, after going knee-boarding in a ditch near his LaBelle home in Fort Myers. Doctors said he caught Naegleria fowleri, also known as Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM), a rare parasite that thrives in high temperatures and low water levels.

According to family posts on social media, Zachary was on a ventilator Saturday, because he was going to "save lives" before being taken off life support.

"Zac's organs are very strong and his parents have decided to donate his organs to others in need," the post said. "Even though Zac has passed, he will still be saving many lives."

Doctors administered an experimental antibiotic known as miltefosine that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supplied.  It killed the amoeba Wednesday, but the boy's brain was already damaged.

Zachary was first hospitalized Aug. 7 in Fort Myers and was airlifted to Miami Children's Hospital a day later. He underwent surgery Aug. 10.

"He did so well that he'll be the starting 2nd baseman for The Lord's team," a Saturday's Facebook post stated. "I sit back and ask myself, what would make me prouder; my son playing pro ball, being a successful business man or being known for changing and saving thousands of lives for The Lord. It's a no-brainer."

According to the CDC, only one out of 128 patients survive the infection, which destroys brain tissue.

Health officials do not know how to lower levels of the amoeba in freshwater lakes, hot springs and rivers, so the public is advised to assume that there is a low risk of infection  -- especially in southern-tier states. Also, avoid water going up the nose.

Zachary's struggle made national news. Singer Taylor Swift and players from the New York Yankees and the Saint Louis Cardinals sent him gifts to the hospital.

In his neighborhood, thousands of dollars to help cover health care costs were raised. Rival football teams from Immokalee High School Indians and La Belle Cowboys helped to raise donations. Students and teachers from Zachary's LaBelle Middle School also rallied behind him.

On Sunday morning, his family's Facebook page had at least 14,355 followers.

Zachary is survived by his dad Jessie Reyna, mom Betsy Reyna, his sister Amanda, and his brothers Brandon, Matthew and Zac Reyna.

Miami Children's Hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Caminas released a statement Sunday offering their "heartfelt condolences to this devoted family."