BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. -- The family of a 16-year-old girl, who died over the weekend from an amoeba infection, spoke publicly for the first time on Monday.
Despite the Center for Disease Control's best efforts, doctors couldn't cure a Brevard County girl's amoeba infection. However, amid the tragedy, there lie seven miracles.
Courtney Nash was 14 years old when she pushed her mother to let her become an organ donor. Seven recipients are alive because of it.
Nash's struggle saddened the community, but her gift is inspiring it. A group will walk over the Max Brewer Bridge on Monday in her memory.
PJ Nash-Ryder, Courtney's mom, could barely express what the last week has been like.
"It's hurtful. It's hurtful," Nash-Ryder said.
Her 16-year-old daughter was diagnosed on Wednesday with a rare amoeba infection after swimming in the St. Johns River. Nash died over the weekend.
When her mom stepped outside their home, she set aside her grief and smiled as she told the media that her daughter was still helping others.
"Courtney, you're my angel. You're one of a kind. I love you,” said PJ Nash-Ryder.
Two years ago, Nash asked her mom for permission to become an organ donor.
"I got a little scared. You know, it's like I really didn't want to. I'll be honest. She asked me to sign to give me permission. I did," said Nash-Ryder.
The 16-year-old got her driver's license, and one day before she got sick, Nash renewed her pledge to donate her organs.
"It was just amazing to me. It's like this was her calling. This was what she wanted to do," said Nash-Ryder.
Nash's death has touched the community. Grief counselors descended onto Astronaut High School, where she was a student.
Her family said they are hoping her death raises awareness about the dangers of amoeba and swimming in warm lakes and rivers.
Nash's mother said she didn't get the miracle she was praying for, but her daughter is still delivering them.
The family said they are making funeral arrangements for Saturday.
Nash's mother, who works with the Brevard County Clerk of Courts Office, said she lost her insurance when her position was outsourced. Her former co-workers are now trying to raise funds to pay for the medical bills.
Health officials said this kind of infection is almost always fatal. But they also said contracting the life-threatening amoeba is rare. They told WFTV that cases like this almost always happen in the summer and only in freshwater lakes and ponds where water is above 80 degrees.
The amoebas typically live at the bottom of those bodies of water, and when stirred up can enter the human body through the nose or ear canal, according to health officials. The infection normally sets in quickly and symptoms are almost immediate, including fever, headache, nausea and disorientation.
Three Central Florida boys died from amoeba infections in 2007, including 11-year-old Will Sellers, 14-year-old Angel Arroya-Vasquez and 10-year-old Richard Almeida.
Health officials believe that Arroya-Vasquez picked up the deadly parasite while swimming in a pool.
Sellers and Almedia got sick after swimming in local lakes.
DONATIONS AND FUNDRAISERS FOR COURTNEY
- Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo/Wachovia branch under her name.
- Hot Dog, Sloppy Joe & Bake Sale will be held on Monday, August 15, at the sixth-story lobby of the Brevard County Clerk of Court Office.
- There will be a pizza party & bake sale on Wednesday, August 17 between 11:30am-1:00pm at the sixth-story lobby of the Brevard County Clerk of Court Office.