Student who is one of just four people to survive brain-eating amoeba explains terrifying ordeal

Niamh Spence

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Student who is one of just four people to survive brain-eating amoeba explains terrifying ordeal

Featured Image Credit: Florida Hospital for Children/Family Handout

A student from Florida has revealed his scary ordeal after surviving a brain-eating amoeba.

Sebastian Deleon, 22, is only one of four people to have ever survived the infection caused by the amoeba, with 154 cases recorded in the US.

The student, who comes from Weston in Florida, revealed that he lost the majority of his motor skills after contracting the deadly brain-eating amoeba while swimming in a stagnant pond.

The infection meant he had to relearn the basics of walking and talking.

22-year-old Sebastian Deleon is one of four people to survive from the infection caused by the amoeba. Credit: Click Orlando
22-year-old Sebastian Deleon is one of four people to survive from the infection caused by the amoeba. Credit: Click Orlando

Speaking to Click Orlando, he said: "For the first couple of years, it was kind of hard. The part that I most remember is the part that I was in rehab.

"It was tough. I had to, like, learn how to walk, how to write again, how to do all the basic stuff again."

Deleon contracted an infection from swimming in stagnant waters at age 16.

The infection, is caused by the amoeba infiltrates swimmers’ noses and takes root in their brain, infecting them with primary amebic meningoencephalitis — a condition that’s fatal 97 percent of the time according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Deleon explained how he only swam a handful of times, but it was still enough to be infected with the amoeba.

He said: “It was more of a pond, but we used to call it the lake because it was a huge pond, but the only thing was that it was still-water.

"I went in, I believe, like, three times or twice. I did jump in there, and I did not cover my nose, and I just cannon-balled in a way."

Deleon didn’t think anything was wrong until later after he experienced an excruciating headache while vacationing with his parents.

Deleon is one of four out of 154 cases to have survived. Credit: Family Handout
Deleon is one of four out of 154 cases to have survived. Credit: Family Handout

"This headache was different. It felt more like — the description that I kept saying at the hospital was that it felt there was a smooth rock on top of my head, and someone was pushing it down," he said.

“I couldn’t get up, and I couldn’t move and stuff like that, so my parents were like, 'OK, there’s something wrong with this boy.'"

He compared the feeling to 'roller coasters spinning around and around and around, and I had to wear sunglasses, and the sun wasn’t even out'.

Unfortunately for Deleon, it didn't stop with just a headache. His parents rushed him to hospital, where he was initially treated for suspected meningitis.

However, a spinal tap revealed that he had the water-borne amoeba, which medics suspected had infiltrated his brain via his nose and airways.

To try and help him recover, professionals administered the drug Impavido, before placing him into a coma for almost a week.

Todd McLaughlan, the CEO of Orlando-based Profounda Inc., Impavido’s only US distributor, told Click Orlando: "We felt optimistic at the very beginning because we knew that this was the first time a patient ever had received the drug while still conscious."

DEleon contracted the infection and amoeba at 16-years-old after swimming in stagnant waters. Credit: Florida Hospital for Children
DEleon contracted the infection and amoeba at 16-years-old after swimming in stagnant waters. Credit: Florida Hospital for Children

He added: "The most important thing is a proper diagnosis, and the second thing is speed: making sure you get that drug to them as quickly as possible.

"Think of the treatment for a severe car accident or severe brain trauma. This is to prevent the brain from swelling."

Now Deleon wants to raise awareness of the condition, which has seen numbers creep up with reports the amoeba is being impacted by climate change.

He said: "We should probably have more research into this because there’s no reason why a kid should go into a pond and be scared that they could get something that we barely know what to do with.

"I really do think that we should spread more awareness about this because it’s something that no one, almost nobody, knows about it, and yet it’s so fatal."

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected] 

Topics: News, US News, Health

Niamh Spence
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