On August 30, Michael John Riley Jr., a 14 year old honors student who qualified for the Junior Olympics three times in cross country, passed away. Just 17 days previous, Michael had been swimming in a lake at Sam Houston State Park. It’s there, doctors say, that the “brain-eating amoeba,” Naegleria fowleri, made it’s way into Michael’s sinuses resulting in a lethal infection in his brain.
About after swimming in the Houston area lake, Michael began suffering from a headache and fever, which worsened to include disorientation and neck pain, similar to the symptoms of meningitis. When Michael and his parents arrived at Texas Children’s Hospital, the doctors made a grim diagnosis.
On the last Sunday in August, Michael’s family posted on his Facebook Page:
“It is with a heavy heart that we tell you, Michael John Riley Jr. lost his battle on this earth but won a victory for his place in the arms of our Lord Jesus Christ. Michael fought a courageous fight over the past week, allowing him to move on to be with the Lord for future heavenly tasks, a beautiful set of wings, and a pair of gold running shoes.”
Michael’s family has vowed to honor Riley’s legacy by supporting scientific efforts to find a cure for primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) and coordinate an awareness campaign to educate others so they don’t fall victim to the deadly microorganism.
Most commonly fund in freshwater lakes, ponds, and slow-flowing rivers, Naegleria fowleri can also be found in standing water, mud puddles, untreated swimming pools, improperly treated well water, improperly treated city tap water, hot springs, aquariums, and even soil.
Here are some ways you can protect your family:
- Avoid swimming underwater, diving, water skiing, and jumping in warm, still waters during the late summer.
- Wear a nose clip while swimming, boating, or playing in or on warm waters.
- Avoid stirring up mud during warm summer months.
- If you are cleansing your nostrils, be sure to fill your neti pot or squeeze bottle with distilled or sterile water – not tap water. You may use tap water that has been boiled for 1 minute (3 minutes at high elevations) and then cooled. You can also filter the tap water using filters with pores no larger than 1 micron (1 micrometer).
On September 4 – the day of Michael’s funeral – his family once again posted on Facebook:
Today, we will not say goodbye, we will say, “See you soon!” Today, we will know there is a new warrior angel in Heaven. Today, his family will gain another guardian. Today, the earth will lose a beautiful soul but will rest easy knowing he is at the foot of our Lord and Savior. Today, we will remember that life is fragile and that we need to take time to make the most of it. Today, Michael John Riley Jr., you walk the golden streets of Heaven listening to a good beat, watch over your family and prepare their place there. Bless the Heavens with your amazing smile!
A GoFundMe Page has been set up to help support Michael’s family as they deal with medical and funeral expenses.