9-Year-Old Boy Dies From Rare Parasite Infection Caught in Local Lake

Lily Lake

Many of my friends and their families spend summers swimming and playing at the lake. We don’t because I’m not a fan of swimming in anything that’s not chlorinated. Too many summers spent swimming in obscure rivers in Mexico and catching stomach parasites from ingested water. No thank you. I’ll pass. But for most of the middle-class population, a house on the lake to spend warm summer weekends playing in the water, surrounded by friends, is the American dream. It was for Jack Ariola Erenberg and his family too.

Last week, 9-year-old Jack Ariola Erenberg was swimming in the warm waters of Lily Lake near his home in Minnesota. A few days later, Jack was dead. His brain had been ravaged by primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, an infection caused by a microscopic amoeba.

This is more like an American middle-class horror story than a dream.

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None of us takes our children to the beach with the intention of putting them in harm's way. Our biggest worry is usually that someone will drown, get sunburned or bump their head while diving off the dock; which in and of itself is a pretty big worry.

The average family doesn’t consider the parasites and microbes that can lurk in the sediment. But when the heat is high, like it has been this summer, and the water levels low, the risk of infection is much greater -- especially if you are in a body of water where the water has become stagnant. Jack's family didn't know that -- and why would they?

As parents, if we worried about every single thing that could ever possibly happen to harm our kids, we’d have them living in a bubble and never allow them to leave the house. Trying to prevent all of the possibilities of danger in life would cause the quality of life for our children and us to drop considerably.

Jack would have started hockey camp this week and entered 4th grade this fall. He was looking forward to it and his parents were looking forward to his future. But a quick swim in the lake ended all that. He went swimming one day and a few days later, he was incoherent, suffering from headaches and hallucinations. The next day, he was on a ventilator. His brain was shutting down. A few days after that, 9-year-old Jack was dead.

Unfortunately, bad things might still happen that are beyond our control. We simply cannot protect our children from everything, no matter how much we want to.

How are you going to make today count?

Image via SRGB /Flickr

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