Brain-eating amoeba claimed life of area woman’s young son in 2005

ROCKDALE, Texas (KWTX) The death of Valley Mills Elementary School student Lily Mae Avant, 10, who was taken to a Fort Worth hospital after contracting a rare brain-eating amoeba while swimming over the Labor Day weekend, came 14 years to the day after a Rockdale woman lost her young son to the same condition.

Brandon Michael Hess, (left) died from amoebic meningitis in 2005 after taking a Labor Day camping trip to Lake Somerville. Lily Mae Avant (right) died 14 years to the day later. (Family photos)

"It just struck very hard to my heart knowing I am a mother who's been through this and how tragic this is and how hard it is to go through," Melissa Troutman said Tuesday.

Troutman’s son, Brandon Michael Hess, died from amoebic meningitis in 2005 after taking a Labor Day camping trip to Lake Somerville.

"The following week he got sick,” she said.

“We thought he had a stomach bug but by that weekend we were taking him to the emergency room," Troutman said.

"He was put in a medically-induced coma for a week and then by that Friday we were informed that we would have to make a tough decision to take him off support which was probably (one of the) hardest things I had to do in my life."

Amoebic meningoencephalitis is a brain infection caused by the so-called brain-eating amoeba Naegleria fowleri, which is typically found in fresh water bodies such as ponds, lakes and rivers in Texas and across the U.S.

The first symptoms of the infection typically appear about a week after the amoeba enters the nose.

Since Brandon’s death in September 2005, at least 44 people have contracted the rare infection and only four have survived, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I had been following the story very closely and praying very hard for Lily hoping that she would be the fifth survivor," Troutman said.

"It is devastating. No family should have to go through that. No parent, no mother, should have to sit there by your child's bedside and watch them deteriorate in front of you,” she said.

"They asked my family if they could use Brandon's case for research and we had no problem with it. I just pray that they are able to find something that will cure this."