LaBelle, Florida (News-Press) -- Twelve days after a Hendry Country boy contracted a rare brain-eating amoeba, the rural town he calls home is rallying for his comeback and
pulling together to comfort his family.
Reyna, 12, was knee-boarding in a water-filled ditch near his family's
LaBelle home Aug. 3 when he contracted the infection known as primary
amoebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM. It destroys brain tissue and is
highly lethal - one out of the 128 people infected in the U.S. since
1962 have survived it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, though it was reported this week that an Arkansas teenager is the latest to survive the infection.
has been in the intensive care unit at Miami Children's Hospital, where
his family is keeping vigil at his bedside. They regularly post updates
on a Facebook page titled "Pray4Number4," which had more than 6,500 likes and hundreds of comments from across the country. The family said
Thursday that doctors were evaluating Zachary's brain function, but
further details were unavailable.
School begins Monday in Hendry, and LaBelle Middle School, where
Zachary would be a seventh-grader, held its open house Thursday.
Principal Ken Pickles said the close-knit school and town are keeping
the popular, athletic boy with the mega-watt smile in their thoughts.
"He's a really great kid," Pickles said. "He comes from a good family. Everyone is coming together for them."
known for its farms, high school football and friendly neighbors, has a
population of about 4,700, with three elementary schools, one middle
school and one high school, so most children in the community grow up
with each other. Pickles said one of the pluses of a small-town is that
everyone knows everyone else and they get behind those who need help.
prayer vigil held Wednesday morning filled Memorial Park near the
historic courthouse. Pickles said three cowboy hats were filled with
more than $3,000 in donations for the family.
school resumes Monday, guidance counselors will be ready to help any
students that need to talk about Zachary, Pickles said.
Tyson Frantz, who coaches Zachary in basketball, called him the perfect student.
very polite, very bright, and a really good shooter," Frantz said.
Zachary, a guard, was one of two sixth-graders selected for last year's
His sixth-grade science teacher, Jennalee Edwards, said Zachary is a leader among students.
"I hope he pulls through this," she said. "He has a big heart."
The organism that sickened Zachary, Naegleria fowleri, is commonly found in freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers.
See Also: Dangerous amoeba lurks in lakes, ponds
Holm, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health in Lee County,
said the infection happens when contaminated water enters the body
through the nose.
Florida, the months of July, August and September are the warmest, so
any standing fresh water is going to be warm and have the potential to
host Naegleria fowleri," she said.
advises parents to teach their children effective ways of keeping water
from entering the nose, such as using a nose clip or holding the head
of people enjoy fresh recreational water every year without contracting
this infection," Holm said. "It is a highly unusual infection, and most
people can expect to continue enjoying recreational fresh water with a
minimal risk of infection throughout a normal lifespan."