Family of young amoeba victim aims to raise awareness

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on December 4, 2012 at 1:36 AM

Updated Saturday, Nov 23 at 12:40 PM

ARLINGTON — Kyle Lewis was the All-American seven-year old who loved baseball and family time.

Just days after summer vacation in 2010, the Arlington second grader developed what appeared to be flu-like symptoms.

Tests later blamed an amoeba called Naegleria Fowleri, for attacking Kyle's brain and killing him.

"It was horrible," remembers his mother, Julie Lewis. "The poor kid suffered through things that were unimaginable."

"No parent should ever have to see what we witnessed," added Jeremy Lewis, Kyle's father.

Kyle's story is being featured this month on Animal Planet's "Monsters Inside Me" series.

Deaths from this amoeba are considered a one-in-a million occurrence. Kyle was swimming with a sister and cousins, but only he was infected.

The organism flourishes in warm freshwater lakes and ponds, which makes the potential for infection not rare enough for Kyle's parents.

"I don't want anybody else to go through this pain when it's preventable," Julie Lewis said through tears. "I wish with every breath I take that I had known about it, and that I could've protected my son."

That's why the Lewis family has established KyleCares, a foundation to raise awareness. They're calling for the state health department to launch a campaign against an amoeba that is always deadly and 100 percent preventable.

"They need to be telling people in the hot summer months, this is a threat," Jeremy Lewis said. "This is a serious threat and there is nothing that anybody can do about it."

The Lewis family wants meteorologists in warm states to report lake temperatures in their forecasts during warm months. And they would like deaths from the amoeba to be added to the official list of "reportable diseases," like whooping cough and measles.

The Lewis' are giving away nose plugs as part of their mission, encouraging people who swim in lakes, ponds, and rivers to "Plug It." The $1 device could have prevented the amoeba from swimming up Kyle's nose.

"Every day without my Kyle is hard," his mother said.

Nothing can bring their son back, but the Lewis' hope no other family will lose their All-American boy — or girl — to the monster called Naegleria Fowleri.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

 

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