Houston teen fighting brain-eating amoeba 8-27-15

Please help Michael Riley Jr. find a cure. Make a donation today.


A 14-year-old boy is still fighting for his life from a devastating infection caused by a brain-eating amoeba. KHOU11 News has been working for answers on where he contracted the amoeba. Michael Riley Jr. was the picture of health. Fourteen years old, and a three-time junior Olympian. But he's also the picture of who falls victim to this infection. "Young healthy teenagers, young healthy children that are just playing out in a pool or a dam or water reservoir and they get sick," said Dr. Luis Ostrosky, Infectious Disease Expert with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and UT Health. Dr. Ostrosky says what happened to Michael is rare and only affects certain people whose immune systems are vulnerable to the infection. There's no way to know who that might be. So the best advice is to avoid splashing, or jumping in warm fresh water, especially anything that looks stagnant.

At least hold your nose, because that's how the amoeba gets in. Michael likely got the infection jumping in a lake near Huntsville. We've been working for several days to find out which lake, but still no answer. KHOU 11 News has learned the Harris County Public Health Department is in charge of the investigation, but officials will only say it's still piecing together everywhere Michael went the day he was exposed, while on a trip with members of his track team. Within a week, Michael had the typical symptoms: headache, nausea, disorientation.

When he wasn't diagnosed right away, his brain started swelling. Activists are trying to bring more attention to the condition, like Jeremy Lewis who lost his young son five years ago, then started the group "Kyle Cares Amoeba Awareness." Lewis doesn't like the term rare. "We've got to get parents to understand that the four-letter word that's thrown around all the time, all that is, is a false sense of security," Lewis said. Lewis wants doctors trained to ask the right questions and parents alerted to the danger, and Dr. Ostrosky agrees. "If you've been swimming and you have the symptoms, you need to seek medical attention right away," Dr. Ostrosky said. There have been eight cases of his infection in Texas in the last 10 years, and six have died, including another child from our area earlier this summer.

Michael's family tells KHOU11 they want to thank the community for their love and support and ask that they continue praying.

Center For The Grace Foundation is raising donations to help Michael Riley Jr.

Please Make a donation today to help Michael Riley Jr.