Boy Stricken With Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba Infection Taken Off Life Support

The 12-year-old Florida boy who fell tragically ill after being infected by a rare and deadly brain-eating amoeba has been taken off the ventilator that kept him alive.

His family has chosen to donate his organs.

In a Facebook posting early Tuesday, the family announced that Zachary Reyna's organs were going to others who were "waiting on a miracle."

"Tonight at 10:13 p.m., Zachary Cole Reyna began his journey to save lives," his family wrote on its Facebook page Pray4Number4.

"Zac donated all his organs to others that were waiting on a miracle. Through donating his organs, Zac is living on. His heart will be pumping for someone, his lungs will be taking breaths for someone and all his other organs will change the lives of many."

That way, relatives hope, the young boy will be remembered for always willing to help others.

"Zac is our miracle," the family's posting added. "His spirit will always be among us. He changed all of our lives, brought us closer to God, strengthened our family and his story has touched people around the world."

Reyna became infected Aug. 3 while knee boarding with friends in a ditch near his family's Miami home. The second child in a month to contract the disease, doctors in Miami told the family late last week that the boy had extensive brain damage.

The family also noted on their Facebook page created to provide updates on the child's condition that funeral arrangements had not yet been made.

Miami Children's Hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Caminas wouldn't confirm whether the child has died, but she said Miami Children's Hospital "expresses heartfelt condolences to this devoted family. We respect the family's wishes and honor their privacy at this time."

The boy's uncle, Homer Villarreal, said on Saturday that the family was still reeling from the loss of a boy with boundless energy. He said the boy had challenged him to a basketball game two days before he was admitted to the hospital.

"It's hard for me to believe that Zachary can be laying in bed when this kid would never run out of energy," Villarreal said. "It's hard for all of us to believe this is happening to him."

The brain infection is called primary amebic meningoencephalitis. It destroys brain tissue and is usually fatal.

Infections from the amoeba are rare. Florida officials cited federal statistics showing that 28 infections were reported in the U.S. from 2003 to 2012, mostly from exposure to contaminated recreational water. A person cannot be infected with the amoeba by drinking contaminated water, state officials said, and the amoeba is not found in salt water.

Victims typically are exposed while swimming or doing water sports in warm ponds, lakes, rivers and canals during the hot summer months, mostly in the South.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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