New medication in Orlando saves Broward teen with brain-eating amoeba

ORLANDO, FLA. (WSVN) - Thanks to a new medication, a Broward teenager battling a deadly brain-eating amoeba is expected to make a full recovery.

Sixteen-year-old Sebastian DeLeon contracted Naegleria fowleri, a rare brain-eating amoeba, while swimming in a South Florida waterway, earlier this month.

The rare amoeba is so deadly that it has a 97 percent death rate.

However, thanks to the team of doctors and physicians at Florida Hospital for Children in Orlando, a breakthrough medication saved his life.

“I have treated amoeba cases in the past, and they are all so heartbreaking, so this is a story that we need to tell about Sebastian de Leon,” said a tearful Dr. Humberto Liriano of Florida Hospital for Children.

Liriano wept as he spoke about DeLeon in a news conference.

The patient’s mother, Brunilda Gonzalez, expressed her gratitude to the medical team. “We’re so thankful that God has given us the miracle through this medical team and this hospital, for having our son get better and having him full of life,” she said.

According to DeLeon’s family, by the time their son realized his symptoms, which included a severe headache, he was on vacation at an Orlando theme park with his family.

His family then rushed him to Florida Hospital for Children where he was put into a medically-induced coma as doctors worked around the clock treating him for this rare infection.

“All efforts, team efforts in our hospital worked together to seek the newly approved drug at a manufacturer that is actually located here in Orlando,” said Dr. Liriano. “Within 12 minutes, the medication arrived.”

But most people with the infection are not so lucky.

Just last week, 11-year-old Hannah Collins from South Carolina passed away after picking up the deadly infection while swimming in a river, and three years ago, in Southwest Florida, 12-year-old Zachary Reyna passed away from the brain-eating amoeba.

“We watched and waited for Sebastian while he was in this coma, and we decided, the team and I, that it was time to wake him up,” said Liriano. “We woke him up, and we decided to take the breathing tube out, and within an hour, he spoke,” he said in tears.

Doctors then removed the teen’s breathing tube and saw that the medication worked.

“Since then, he’s done tremendously well. We are very optimistic. He’s walking, he’s speaking. I saw him this morning. He’s ready to go home.”

Doctors believe DeLeon will make a full recovery.

According to health officials, the rare-brain eating amoeba is found in warm fresh water and enters the brain through the nose. Officials recommend, when swimming in such waters, to either cover your nose or to just swim with your head above the water.

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