Florida 22-Year-Old Who Survived Brain-Eating Amoeba Speaks Out 6 Years After Near-Fatal Infection

In 2016, Sebastian DeLeon became one of only four people to survive a rare Naegleria fowleri infection after jumping into a contaminated pond. He tells Inside Edition about what his recovery has been like.

A 22-year-old Florida camp counselor is a walking miracle after surviving a brain-eating amoeba, becoming one of only four people in the world to ever do so. 

Sebastian DeLeon was working at the camp in 2016 when he jumped into a pond for a swim. Within days he was at death's door.

“I told my mom and my dad, I was like, ‘Yo, I cannot move. There’s something really wrong.’ And they were like, ‘OK, we’re taking you to the hospital.’ The actual feeling was like a rock sitting on top of my head. Eventually, they gave me morphine for the pain, because it was so intense,” DeLeon said.

Then came the stunning diagnosis — Naegleria fowleri, an extremely rare, but almost always fatal infection. 

DeLeon had to be put in a medically induced coma for a week.

“It’s fatal. I mean, it can do a significant amount of damage in a very short time,” neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez said. “It could literally swim up this boy’s nose and went into his brain and started eating away at it. Literally, a brain-eating amoeba. And it’s terrifying, ‘cause you can’t even see it without a microscope.”

There’s only one drug available to treat the fatal organism. It’s an anti-parasitic called Impavido, but is only available at a handful of hospitals.

“He’s very fortunate that the hospital either had the medication or was able to get it to him very quickly,” Hafeez said.

So what should you do to stay safe while swimming in lakes or ponds?

First thing you want to do is to make sure there is no algae growth. Your best bet is to swim in areas where there’s water flow. If it's just stagnant, avoid it at all costs.

In Sebastian’s case, his mom had actually warned him about the pond.

“My mom, she had told me, ‘Hey, the water doesn’t look good. You shouldn’t go in it.’ It was green and it was kind of icky looking,” DeLeon said.

The life-threatening infection happened six years ago, and it’s taken a lot of grueling physical therapy for him to relearn basic tasks, including walking, writing and speaking.

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