A 12-year-old Zachary Reyna, who has been battling an infection from brain-eating amoeba for more than three weeks died after donating his organs so other children might live, his family posted Tuesday on a Facebook page that it set up to communicate with family and friends.
Zachary Reyna of LaBelle, Fla., contracted the parasitic infection, known as primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, while knee-boarding, a sport similar to water skiing, in a water-filled channel Aug. 3 near his family's home about 30 miles east of Fort Myers, Fla., and had been in a Miami hospital since then battling for his life. Antibiotics defeated the infection Wednesday, but Zachary's family acknowledged online that it was a small victory because of the amount of damage his brain suffered.
He had been on a ventilator since Saturday awaiting the chance to donate his organs.
"Tonight at 10:13 p.m., Zachary Cole Reyna began his journey to save lives," his family wrote early Tuesday on its Facebook page, Pray4Number4. "Zac donated all his organs to others that were waiting on a miracle. Through donating his organs, Zac is living on. His heart will be pumping for someone, his lungs will be taking breaths for someone and all his other organs will change the lives of many."
Zachary was the second child in a month to contract the disease, which thrives in warm, fresh water and enters the body through the nose, traveling to the brain. But two of Zachary's friends who went knee boarding with him that Saturday did not get sick.
Kali Hardig, 12, of Benton, Ark., contracted the brain-eating amoeba July 19, about two weeks before Zachary, while swimming. Her condition is now stable, and last week she was able to get out of bed and walk across the hospital room, throw a basketball and sit up in bed to watch TV.
Almost 130 people have contracted primary amoebic meningoencephalitis in the past 50 years and only one other besides Kali have survived, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Arrangements for Zachary's funeral are pending. Classmates at LaBelle Middle School where he was to be a seventh-grader have been back in school for a week.
"Zac is our miracle. His strong spirit will always be among us," his family wrote. "He changed all of our lives, brought us closer to God, strengthened our family and his story has touched people around the world."
USA TODAY Contributing
The News-Press (Fort Myers, Fla.)