Teen battling brain-eating amoeba after swimming at Fla. beach

Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 3:41 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2022 at 1:02 PM EDT
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FORT MYERS, Fla. (Gray News) - Friends and family are hoping a 13-year-old boy from Florida pulls through after he was hospitalized due to a brain-eating amoeba.

Supporters of 13-year-old Caleb Ziegelbauer gathered Saturday outside Golisano Children’s Hospital wearing yellow, his favorite color, and holding signs expressing their love. The teenager has been at the hospital for more than two weeks.

“Wake up, Caleb. We just want you to wake up and open your eyes,” family friend Marla Kaluzavich said.

Caleb Ziegelbauer, 13, has been hospitalized for more than two weeks after doctors say a...
Caleb Ziegelbauer, 13, has been hospitalized for more than two weeks after doctors say a brain-eating amoeba swam up his nose and infected his brain.(Source: Family photos, WBBH via CNN)

Caleb went swimming with his family July 1 at the Port Charlotte Beach Park. His aunt, Katie Chiet, says five days later, he got a fever – just before the family was heading out on a 19-day road trip.

“He started becoming disoriented and hallucinating, and they had to bring him here,” Chiet said.

Doctors believe a brain-eating amoeba swam up Caleb’s nose and infected his brain, his family said. According to experts, 97% of people never recover from it.

However, the 13-year-old’s family is staying positive throughout the diagnosis.

“We try not to look at the numbers too much because there are miracles that happen every day, and I think we’re just going to see another one that happens here,” said the teen’s aunt, Lesley Cornelisen.

Family and friends, some of whom flew in from Minnesota, know Caleb may not have been able to see their display in the hospital parking lot, but they hope he can feel the support as he continues his battle.

“Wake up, buddy. We love you. We’re all here for you,” Chiet said.

Charlotte County, where the beach is located, said on Twitter there had been no confirmed reports of the Naegleria fowleri amoeba, according to its local health department.

A spokesperson for the Fort Myers hospital where Caleb is being treated, said he is in “amoeba protocol,” The Daily Sun reported. They also said the situation had been reported to the health department in neighboring Lee County, where the facility is located.

Chiet and another of Caleb’s aunts, Beth Ziegelbauer said in a GoFundMe that after initially being diagnosed with meningitis, Caleb began receiving treatment for the amoeba July 10.

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