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When Leland Shoemake was just six years old, he was battling against a rare yet terrifying disease.
The beloved little boy from Williamson, Georgia contracted a free-living amoeba, Balamuthia mandrillaris, which led to a serious infection of the brain and spinal cord. It’s possible for the amoeba to enter the body when soil containing Balamuthia comes in contact with wounds and cuts. Since Leland loved playing in the dirt, doctors believe this is how Leland contracted the infection.
Leland fought hard for his life, but on September 25, 2015, he passed away.
When his devastated parents, Amber and Tim, returned home from the hospital for the first time, they were about to perform the gut-wrenching task of picking out clothing for his burial.
That’s when they spotted a note sitting on the table in their living room.
Leland had left them a handwritten note in a spiral-bound notebook. When Amber read the words, she instantly broke down in tears…
As it turned out, Leland contracted Balamuthia mandrillaris, a free-living amoeba.
Doctors believe Leland came into contact with the amoeba while playing in the dirt — something, like most little boys, he loved to do.
According to the CDC, “Balamuthia is thought to enter the body when soil containing Balamuthia comes in contact with skin wounds and cuts, or when dust containing Balamuthia is breathed in or gets in the mouth.” The CDC reports only 70 cases of Balamuthia mandrillaris in the United States since 1993.
While Leland was being treated in the hospital, his symptoms worsened. His family kept their community updated on Facebook.
“He’s being kept sedated but his pressures keep spiking,” Amber wrote on Facebook. “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.”
“Reality still hasn’t set in that he’s not here with us. We miss him terribly. Today we go to pick out his headstone. I’m not ready for this either. I’m not sure how I’m going to go on without him. How do you not only say goodbye to a child but your best friend.”
Devastated and heartbroken beyond repair, Amber and Tim went home from the hospital for the first time. They were about to perform the gut-wrenching task of picking out clothing for Leland’s burial when they found a note in a spiral-bound notebook, sitting on the table in their living room.
Leland had left a handwritten note there for his parents to find.
The letter read:
still with you / thank you mom and dad / love mom and dad/ it’s a good day
“We were in shock and broke down as soon as we saw it,” Amber told ABC News. “He was amazing in life and still is after his passing. He touched everyone he met and we are amazed at how many lives he’s touched since he left us.”
Amber got a tattoo of Leland’s final words to her, inked in his exact handwriting.
She remembered him on Facebook, sharing his personality with the world:
“The one thing he loved most was playing in the dirt. 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 smart from day one. He knew his abc’s, numbers, colors, shapes and 20 sight words by the time he was a year old. He was our little nerd and we loved that about him. He loved school and loved to learn. He loved the history channel, the weather channel, documentaries and anything about history.
He loved ships like the titanic and learning about things like WWII. He was perfect. His favorite movie was jaws. His favorite director was Steven Spielberg. And his favorite actor was Adam Sandler. He loved his brother and his family so much. He was the life of every party. His smile could light up a city. He was the smartest, most caring, loving little boy there ever was.
He was taken from us too soon. He could have done great things in this world.”
In the wake of Leland’s death, Amber established a foundation in his honor. All proceeds will go to the foundation and help under-privileged children for Christmas, one of Leland’s favorite holidays.
“My hope is to spread awareness and help spread Leland’s love throughout,” she says. “Everything I do will be in his honor. Please join Leland’s pay it forward movement and do a good deed for someone in honor of him. Tell them Leland’s story and ask them to pay it forward in his name and continue to tell everyone about him.”
Leland was taken from this world too soon, but his memory lives on in the note his loved ones will forever cherish. Please SHARE Leland’s story with your friends on Facebook.
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