6-year-old hospitalized with rare brain infection

Channel 2's Carl Willis reports

ATLANTA — A 6-year-old Pike County boy with an amoebic infection in his brain is fighting for his life.

Leland Shoemake's parents say the infection was caused by the amoeba Balamuthia mandrillaris. According to the CDC, "Balamuthia is thought to enter the body when soil containing ;Balamuthia comes in contact with skin wounds and cuts, or when dust containing ;Balamuthia is breathed in or gets in the mouth." 

It is unclear how Leland came in contact with the amoeba.

Leland is in critical condition at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, according to his parents. They said Monday the infection caused his brain to swell and they are praying he survives.

His parents created a Facebook page to keep the community updated on his condition.

Leland has been sick for nearly a month and was admitted to the hospital nearly two weeks ago, his parents said on his GoFundMe page. 

"He has had bad headaches, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and now his eyes are crossed and he can't focus on anything without his eyes moving and seeing double," wrote his mother.

She continued by asking everyone to keep Leland in their prayers.

The community held a vigil for Leland Tuesday night.

Baseball coach Mark Saporita told Channel 2's Carl Willis that team mothers have visited the family at the hospital to show their support for the family.

"I'm at a loss for words. It can happen to any of us at any time," Saporita said. "I wake up like is this real? Is it fake? But the community has definitely supported us and we're just thankful for that."

Family members told Willis they are thankful for that support.

"It's awesome and Timmy and Amber really appreciate it. It's awesome and we thank everybody down here," said John Shoemake, Leland's grandfather.

His former kindergarten teacher, Valerie Perkins, said Leland is a smart boy who loves the History Channel, Legos and Minecraft.
She's told Willis she is pulling for him to get back to those things and the people he loves.
"There is a small percent chance that he could pull through and that's just what we're praying for," Perkins said. "It's hard to understand, but we're relying on our faith in God."

His parents started the GoFundMe page to raise money for hospital bills. They say they do have insurance, but know there will be many extra costs that are not covered.

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