A South Florida teen beat the odds to survive a brain-eating amoeba thanks to some quick-working doctors in Orlando.
Every brain-eating amoeba patient Dr. Humberto Liriano has ever treated died. The cases are so rare that only four people have survived in the past 50 years.
One of the survivors is 16-year-old Sebastian DeLeon, and talking about him brings Liriano to tears.
"We woke him up, we decided to take the breathing tube out and within hours he spoke," Liriano said Tuesday. "Since then he’s done very well. He’s walking, he’s speaking. I saw him already this morning. He’s ready to go home."
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DeLeon was infected by swimming in a private lake in Broward County. He and his family were visiting theme parks in Orlando when he suffered brain-crushing headaches and severe light sensitivity.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says only four out of 138 people have survived being infected with the amoeba in the past 50 years, including DeLeon, according to the hospital's doctors.
Emergency room doctors at Orlando's Florida Hospital for Children first thought he had meningitis, but gut instinct pushed doctors to perform a spinal puncture test.
DeLeon tested positive for the amoeba and the race against the clock to save his life was on. Luck was on their side as amoeba-fighting drugs happened to be local.
"By 4:00, he was already cooled, intubated, in a coma and received all five medications," Liriano said.
For 10 days DeLeon has been recovering and getting stronger. He beat grim odds to a deadly reality that claims 97 percent of its victims.
"We are so thankful that God has given us the miracle through this medical team and this hospital for having our son back and having him full of life," mother Brunilda Gonzalez said. "He's a very energetic, adventurous, wonderful teen, and we are so thankful for the gift of life."