13-year-old child with rare brain-eating amoeba opens his eyes: 'We remain hopeful'

Only four people over the last 60 years have survived primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM)

The family of a 13-old-boy suffering from a rare brain-eating amoeba announced the child had recently opened his eyes.  

Caleb Ziegelbauer has been hospitalized for over a month after he visited a beach in Port Charlotte, Florida, in July with his family. After being rushed to the hospital for a prolonged illness by his parents, doctors believe the cause is a Naegleria fowleri amoeba. 

The amoeba typically leads to primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which causes severe brain damage and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 1962 to 2021, only four people of the 154 diagnoses in the United States have survived the disease. 

Humans can come in contact with rare the organism by living near warm bodies of water such as rivers, ponds, and lakes. On July 10, Ziegelbauer began receiving treatment for Naegleria fowleri infection and was placed in a state of hypothermia by doctors. 

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Caleb Ziegelbauer has been hospitalized for over a month as he battles the rare and deadly amoeba. 

Caleb Ziegelbauer has been hospitalized for over a month as he battles the rare and deadly amoeba.  (iStock)

"Not only has Caleb moved his hands and feet, but now his eyes are opening," said Katie Chiet, one of the organizers for Caleb's GoFundMe, in an update from August 5 "He isn't quite tracking... YET. But we remain hopeful that tomorrow's mountains will be conquered!"

The fundraiser has raised nearly $60,000. Prior announcements on the page noted that scans have shown that Ziegelbauer has suffered brain damage. The last update occurred on  August 7th, stating he had just completed the CDC protocol for Naegleria fowleri and will be having surgery Monday morning to fit him with a tracheostomy and feeding tube.

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"Now we (not so) patiently wait for his awakening," Chiet added. "I cannot even begin to describe how much I miss this boy. I'm only one of many. Thankful we made it to this day. Grateful to all the people who got us here."

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