'God will step in' to save boy from brain-eating parasite, family says

Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com  |  Aug. 26, 2013 at 1:26 PM
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The family of 12-year-old Zachary Reyna, who was declared brain-dead after contracting an infection from a waterborne amoeba, said they are still hoping for a miracle.

Doctors in Miami diagnosed Reyna with primary amoebic meningoencephalitis in early August. The infection is caused by the rare Naegleria fowleri parasite, which destroys brain tissue and has killed all but three people who have contracted it in the past 50 years.

While the Reyna family announced Saturday the "battle was over" for Reyna and said they planned to donate the boy's organs, they appeared to reverse course on Sunday.

"Miami Children’s Hospital expresses heartfelt condolences to this devoted family,” the hospital said in a statement. “We respect the family’s wishes and honor their privacy at this time.”

Doctors declared Reyna brain dead, but the family said Sunday they were praying for "God to step in," and would not be taking him off the ventilator yet.

Doctors believe Zachary contracted the extremely rare Naegleria fowleri amoeba, which thrives in warm standing water, while knee-boarding in a ditch behind his southern Florida home August 3. His diagnosis was confirmed August 12 by the Glades County Health Department.

A 12-year-old Arkansas girl who contracted the infection a few weeks before Reyna is believed to be just the third person out of more than 125 cases to survive a battle with the parasite.

Kali Harding has showed signs of recovery, taking her first steps and saying her first words since falling ill more than a month ago.

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