Leland Shoemake, a 6-year-old boy from Pike County, Georgia, who contracted a rare amoebic brain infection and fell ill a month ago, passed away Friday, September 25. After he died, his mother found a loving “goodbye” note her son had written and left on the table in the family’s living room
Leland’s grief-stricken parents, Amber and Tim Shoemake, announced his death on September 25 in a post to the Facebook page “Prayers for Leland,” which was set up to provide updates to friends and family about his condition.
After Leland died, his mother shared on Facebook a heartbreaking “goodbye” note that the 6-year-old boy had written and left on the table in the family’s living room before he was taken to hospital and died Friday.
He fell ill one month ago and was admitted to hospital two weeks after. He lay critically ill at the children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, while doctors battled to save his life. His parents, Amber and Tim, stayed at his beside as he struggled for his life.
At first, doctors were baffled about the cause of his condition and struggled to diagnose the illness. But they finally determined he was suffering from an infection caused by an amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris.
Before the diagnosis, they had suspected that he was suffering from meningitis.
Amber reported in a Facebook post while Leland was undergoing treatment that he was placed on a cocktail of medicines that had severe side effects, such as headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, and dizziness.
“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,” she wrote.
Before he died, his mother posted a despairing update as his condition deteriorated.
“He’s being kept sedated but his pressures keep spiking. They did a CT and it shows swelling in the brain and decreased overall quality of his brain. Also it looked like the infection has gotten worse. I’m broken.”
It remains unclear how Leland contracted the rare amoebic infection. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the pathogen enters the body through infected soil. This could happen when dust containing the pathogen is inhaled or ingested through the mouth. It could also enter the body through a skin wound when it comes into contact with infected soil or other material.
Amber thus believes that her son may have contracted the infection while playing outside in the dirt.
She wrote in one of her Facebook posts that her son loves “playing in the dirt.” But, of course, she never imagined he would catch such dreadful infection having fun like other boys of his age.
“The one thing he loved most was playing in the dirt,” she wrote. “I never imagined that would be the thing that would take him from me. He was my world. He made me a mother. We struggled so hard to have him. He was a preemie baby but came out screaming and healthy.”
“He was my world. He made me a mother. We struggled so hard to have him. He was a preemie baby.”
When his parents returned home after he died, they found a “goodbye” note he had written and left for them on the table in the living room that read, “Still with you… Thank you mom and dad… Love, Goodbye.”
“Still with you… Thank you mom and dad… Love. Good day.”
After the message, he drew a red heart inscribed with the words, “mom, dad, love.”
Although grief-stricken after the death of her son, Leland’s mother, Amber, posted the message to Facebook.
“When Tim and I came home for the first time to get him clothes to be buried in, this is the note we found from him on the table in the living room,” she wrote. “We have no idea when he wrote it but you can tell he was always a special child. We will love you forever Leland. Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite!”
“We have no idea when he wrote it but you can tell he was always a special child. We will love you forever Leland.”
Despite Amber’s admirable courage and steely resolve in the face of extreme adversity, the extent of the trauma of her bereavement is evident.
“No one should ever have to bury a child. I always said I hope it’s me that goes first (because) I don’t think I’m strong enough to handle something like this. It still doesn’t seem real to me,” she wrote.
“His smile could light up a city. He was the smartest, most… loving little boy… He was taken from us too soon. He could have done great things in this world.”
A GoFundMe page that was set up to raise money to pay for the cost of Leland’s treatment raised about $10,000. His parents said the money was used for his funeral held on Monday, according to the Daily Mail.
Friends, relatives, and supporters held a vigil for Leland on Tuesday night, WSB-TV reports.
[Images: Facebook/Prayers For Leland]