Beaufort News

Outlook bleak for Beaufort girl who contracted brain-eating amoeba

Help doctors diagnose brain-eating amoeba; tell them you went swimming

Terry C. Dixon, MD, PhD – Division of Infectious Diseases at the Medical University of South Carolina Children's Hospital - Pediatrics, discusses diagnosing and treating Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) on Aug. 4, 2016.
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Terry C. Dixon, MD, PhD – Division of Infectious Diseases at the Medical University of South Carolina Children's Hospital - Pediatrics, discusses diagnosing and treating Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) on Aug. 4, 2016.

An 11-year-old Beaufort girl fighting for her life after contracting a deadly amoeba is a beauty pageant queen and attended Riverview Charter School.

Hannah Collins was infected with a brain-eating amoeba last month in Charleston County, according to an online fundraising page set up for her family. That information was confirmed Thursday morning by a family friend.

Her outlook is bleak, according to an update from family Thursday night. A post on the Facebook page providing updates on her condition said Hannah has irreparable brain damage and that doctors have done everything they can.

“We are now waiting for her to join the Angels in heaven,” the post said at about 6:30 p.m. Thursday. “As you wait with us, please continue to pray.”

Hannah is in the intensive care unit at Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, the online updates said. She has been a student at Riverview, with social media posts from friends and parents of classmates calling for prayers and financial support.

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“The family appreciates the tremendous outpouring of love and support and asks that you continue to keep Hannah and her medical team in your thoughts and prayers,” family friend Kate Olin said in a statement provided on behalf of the family to The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet on Thursday.

Another family friend said the family is asking for privacy. Attempts to reach a family member have been unsuccessful.

Riverview Charter School director Alison Thomas declined comment Thursday.

Hannah is the daughter of a single mother in the medical field and has a little brother, the message on the fundraising site GoFundMe said. The family is staying at the Ronald McDonald House, the message said. The GoFundMe campaign had raised almost $17,500 as of 5 p.m. Thursday. The post had been shared more than 1,800 times.

Hannah won her division of the Colleton County Rice Pageant in April. She was crowned queen from among several contestants in the Young Miss age group for girls ages 10 to 12, pageant director Ann Drawdy said Thursday.

“A precious little girl, a precious child,” Drawdy said Thursday. “She’s a very sweet child and humble and very appreciative.”

While the hospital said it had no record of a patient by that name when contacted Wednesday afternoon, a family request or other circumstances could have kept the patient confidential, a hospital employee said.

The Facebook page has provided regular updates.

“This morning’s report is that the brain pressure is the highest and is threatening her life,” a post said Thursday morning. “Our family is together with her mother, myself, grandparents and family friends. We know you are with us, too. Thank you for your continued hopes and prayers and keep them coming.”

A post on the page late Wednesday night said “extreme measures are being taken in efforts to stop this evil amoeba.”

Another message posted Wednesday afternoon said Hannah was undergoing an MRI to evaluate inflammation, awaiting results from spinal-fluid tests and that brain swelling was fluctuating.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control confirmed in a news release Tuesday someone had been exposed to the organism Naegleria fowleri while swimming on the Edisto River in Charleston County on July 24. The amoeba is common in warm-water lakes, rivers and streams but infection is rare, the release said.

DHEC did not identify the patient.

To be infected, a person must jump in the water feet-first and have water enter their nose with enough force that the amoeba reaches the brain, epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said in the release. The amoeba usually dies before the person is infected, Bell said.

A drug twice successful in treating the disease was rushed in from Orlando this week to treat the patient.

“We have all the meds from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) but we need a miracle,” Hannah’s aunt, Caroline Crockett, said in a statement on the GoFundMe page.

Stephen Fastenau: 843-706-8182, @IPBG_Stephen

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