BROWARD (CBSMiami) – The Broward teen who beat the odds against a brain-eating amoeba has been identified as 16-year-old Sebastian DeLeon.
During a news conference held at Florida Hospital for Children in Orlando, doctors explained Sebastian’s amazing story.
He was vacationing in Orlando at a theme park with his family when he developed a severe and very painful headache. The headache was so intense, doctors said, he couldn’t tolerate people touching him.
He was admitted to the hospital on August 7th with symptoms of meningitis but was quickly tested for the amoeba Naegleria fowleri and he tested positive. Infection by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri is rare but it kills about 97 percent of the patients. DeLeon is now one of just four people in the last 50 years to survive this type of infection.
Dr. Humberto Liriano, Critical Care Intensivist Physician told his family after first being admitted, the diagnosis was fatal.
“The family when they came to me immediately within 24 hours, I had to tell them to just say their goodbyes. I had to tell them ‘tell him everything you want to tell your child because I don’t know from the time I put him to sleep to the time I take the tube out, will he wake up’.”
But he did survive, with help from a drug produced by an Orlando Company, Profunda, which provided the drug to the hospital within 12 minutes after his positive diagnosis.
DeLeon was in a chemically-induced coma for about 72-hours.
During that time, doctors continually took fluid samples to test for the amoeba and sent daily samples to the CDC who corroborated their diagnoses. Eventually, the samples came back negative.
A wave of emotion took over Dr. Liriano at the news conference because he explained he’s treated cases of Naegleria fowleri before, and they’ve all been fatal. “I have treated amoeba cases before, um, and they’re all severely marginal fatal, so this is a story that we need to tell about Sebastian.”
“We watched and waited for Sebastian while he was in his coma and we decided, the team and I to re-warm him and wake him up. We woke him up and we decided to take the breathing tube out and within hours he spoke,” Dr. Liriano described emotionally. “Since then, he has done tremendously well. We are very optimistic, he’s walking, he’s speaking. I saw him this morning, he’s ready to go home, he’s not ready to leave yet, but he’s ready to go home. He went out for the first time to get some fresh air. We believe, optimistically, he will recover and get rehab.”
His mother, Brunilda Gonzales, also spoke a few words Tuesday morning and thanked God, the medical staff and “every person who came to our room and gave us words of comfort and information. They were so open with us, with everything that was happening and we are so thankful that God has given us the miracle through this medical team and this hospital for having our son back having him full of life,” she said. She described her son as a very energetic and adventurous teen.
No word yet on when he’ll be released from the hospital.
The infection stems from a microscopic, single-cell amoeba that thrives in warm freshwater, such as lakes, ponds and rivers. It enters the body through the nose and makes its way to the brain, where it destroys the brain tissue, causing what’s known as Primary amebic meningoencephalitis or PAM.
Early signs of infection include severe headache, vomiting and fever, which can then advance to stiff neck, seizures and coma.
They usually appear between one to 14 days after infection.