Koral Reef, 20, died last year shortly after getting married, following a debilitating and painful battle against Balamuthia mandrillaris. The Temecula, California, resident is believed to have picked up the parasite while swimming on pre-wedding family trip to Lake Havasu in Arizona in May 2013. She passed away the following October.
Reef got married in July 2014. Shortly after that, she started showing symptoms like severe headache, blurry vision, stiff neck and sensitivity to light and heat.
“She started complaining about headaches, stiff neck nausea, vomiting sensitivity to heat and light. Koral also started having personality changes and mood swings,” said Sybil Meister, the mother who describes her daughter as ‘someone who had a contagious laugh, who was so generous and always cooked for everyone.’
“They said, ‘Oh, she’s having withdrawal from her birth control. It’s a migraine.’ They gave her medicine and sent her home and then she progressively got worse.”
In September, Koral’s vision was going blurry.
Ms Mesiter said: “She went to Temecula Valley (a hospital) and they did an MRI. They showed us the MRI and the amoeba, which they didn’t know was an amoeba, but there was a mass covering the entire right side of her brain and partial of her left.”
The following month, she was dead- recalls the anguished mom.
She also tells how her daughter, not wanting to bother anyone, kept cancelling her appointments with the doctor. She had hoped she would be able to fix the problem herself.
When the doctors finally knew that her progressive decline had been caused by the deadly brain eating amoeba, it was too late. Dr. Navaz Karanjia at the neurocritical care and the neuro-intensive-care unit at University of California San Diego’s Health System who treated her, studied her symptoms and history carefully and said her condition had probably been caused by the aforementioned bacteria when she went for a swim in the Arizona lake. The doctor, however, was not sure about the cause.
“I think it’s dangerous to put a name and place to blame for an infection when you aren’t sure,” Karanjia said. “It’s easy to sensationalize the story, but this particular amoeba has almost always been contracted through inhalation of dust. It’s possible she got it through water, but it’s highly unlikely.”
Reef’s mother is now keen to raise awareness about the bacteria. She has even started a “Team Koral Reef Amoeba Awareness” campaign on Facebook to tell people how seriously dangerous a tryst with the bacteria could be.
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