Leland Shoemake was only 6 years old when he became ill. At first, doctors were baffled by his symptoms and initially thought the child had meningitis. After further testing, his medical team confirmed that he had been infected by Balamuthia Mandrillaris, a brain eating amoeba, most likely obtained from playing in the dirt. Two weeks later, the boy had passed away, leaving behind loving parents and a younger brother.
Leland was on 10 different medications, but ultimately, none of them were able to stop the infection from spreading. He suffered from dozens of side effects, but his family never gave up hope.
Leland’s parents have been fighting for him since the very beginning. He was born premature, but never let it hold him back in life. From an early age, Leland was in love with learning, exploring, creating, and building.
The one thing he loved most was playing in the dirt,” Mrs Shoemake wrote in a Facebook post. “I never imagined that would be the thing that would take him from me.”
When the grieving parents returned home, they discovered this note on the living room table. They aren’t sure when he wrote it, or how he left it there without anyone noticing, but they are grateful to have found it.
No one should ever have to bury a child. I always said I hope it’s me that goes first (because) I don’t think I’m strong enough to handle something like this. It still doesn’t seem real to me.”
Leland’s family is now fighting for more awareness, more research, and quicker testing for this amoeba. Perhaps, if doctors had been able to diagnose Leland sooner and had better treatment options, this story might have a different ending.
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