UPDATE: While familiy members said Zachary Reyna passed away, he was still on a ventilator on Sunday. Click here to read the update.
The 12-year-old Florida boy who has spent several days battling a rare brain-eating infection at Miami Children's Hospital passed away Saturday afternoon, his family said.
Zachary Reyna had been fighting the infection known as PAM, or primary amebic meningoencephalitis, but in a Facebook posting Saturday afternoon, his father said he passed away.
"At 1:54 today there was a crack of a bat heard. Zac took it deep. My boy hit his homerun. One that I'll never forget. I'm so proud of him. He left it all on the field and I can't ask for more. He did so well that he'll be the starting 2nd baseman for The Lords team," father Jesse Reyna wrote. "I sit back and ask myself, what would make me prouder; my son playing pro ball, being a successful business man or being known for changing and saving thousands of lives for The Lord. It's a no brainer. I love The Lord for giving me such a beautiful son who He chose to change myself, my family and the world for better. Thank you Jesus. It hurts, but you have given my family love and peace. We couldn't be so strong today without you. I hope that Zac continues to touch people and his time here is remembered forever. We thank everyone for being so caring and I know it's going to be tough on us at first, but we have an awesome support team back home and we are grateful for that. The battle is over for Zac but he won the war."
A second posting said Zachary's parents had decided to donate his organs.
"Even though Zac has passed, he will still be saving many lives," the posting said. It added that Zachary would be kept on a ventilator so family and friends could visit him one last time on Sunday.
"As a family, you know, we stand strong together, but the whole world was behind him," cousin Tammy Yzaguirre said. "Regardless of how this has turned out, it's still a victory and it's still something to celebrate, his life."
"Miami Children's Hospital expresses heartfelt condolences to this devoted family," the hospital said in a statement Sunday. "We respect the family's wishes and honor their privacy at this time."
On Wednesday, Jesse Reyna said antibiotics had defeated the infection but doctors were still waiting for brain activity. Zachary had been admitted to the Miami hospital after being transferred there from Glades County, where they believe he was infected with the amoeba.
His family said Zachary had been knee boarding in a water-filled ditch by his home before he became very ill.
The brain-eating amoeba that causes this infection is commonly found in warm fresh water such as lakes, rivers, canals and ponds. This is the middle of the peak season, which runs from July through September.
The amoeba can enter through the nose and into the brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2003 to 2012 there have been 31 reported cases of PAM. Of those, 28 have been linked to recreational water, three from nose irrigation with contaminated water. These infections are more likely in Southern states but are extremely rare.
Nevertheless the CDC says you should assume the amoeba is present in warm fresh bodies of water.
"No data exist to accurately estimate the true risk of PAM. Hundreds of millions of visits to swimming venues occur each year in the U.S. 29 that result in 0-8 infections per year," the CDC says on its website. "The extremely low occurrence of PAM makes epidemiologic study difficult; it is unknown why certain persons become infected with the amebae while millions of others exposed to warm recreational fresh waters do not."
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