Charlie and the Brain Eating Amoeba

Brain-eating amoeba

I don’t see many children where I live.  I’ve pointed out before that I live in Charlotte County, Florida, the county with the highest percentage of population over age 65 in the US.  It is possible, as pointed out by Renee over at  Life in the Boomer Lane , that all the young people could be impersonating elderly citizens to cash in on the senior discounts offered.  Finding children has been elevated to a hobby, much like bird-watching.

“I saw a red-headed thumb sucker today”

“Really, where?  Did you call the media to report the sighting?”

“No, I couldn’t be sure it was a child….it might have been an imposter.  It is Senior night at IHOP.”

But Sunday I met an 8 year-old boy named Charlie at the pool where I go to exercise.  Charlie was adorable – sandy brown hair, freckled, stick thin and in constant motion.  Our conversation went like this:

Charlie – “Ma’am,” (he was a real southen gentleman) “are you a teacher?”

Me – “Yes, I am”.  This is not a lie.  I knew he meant a teacher like he sees at his school.  I am not that kind of teacher.  I am a nursing instructor, so technically I didn’t lie to him.

Charlie – “Good, can I ask you something?”

Me – “Shoot, Charlie, ask me anything you want.  If I don’t know the answer, we’ll find it, okay?”

Charlie – “I’m afraid there are brain eating parasites in this pool.  I’m scared.  I got water up my nose.  Do you think I’m gonna die?”

I knew Charlie probably was referring to the lethal amoeba responsible for 3 deaths of young people in the south.  The amoeba, called Naegleria fowleri, is the only type that infects humans.  It is more than 95% lethal. The amoebas flourish in the heat — especially during the summer months in the  South,  thriving in warm waters where people swim.  They enter the nose and attack brain tissue.  Charlie was in luck.  I taught Microbiology last semester, so I felt like I had a handle on the amoeba situation.

I reassured Charlie that the pool was safe – that the amoeba lives generally in lakes and ponds – not treated water like we were enjoying.  We chatted a little more, during which time he asked me at least 20 times if I was SURE he wasn’t going to die?  Completely sure?  100% sure?  Cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die sure?

I continued my exercising and Charlie sought out other opinions.  I heard him ask every single person in the pool if they thought he would die.  My beautiful late morning swim on a hot day was beginning to feel a little oppressive.

Charlie exhausted all other sources of information available to him (3 senior citizens, the lifeguard and his mother, who appeared to be comatose in a poolside lounge chair – he had to shake her vigorously to get her attention). He returned to accompany me with my waterjogging laps.  Yet again, he peppered me with questions about the possiblity of his impending death.  I was not annoyed, really. I felt his physical health wasn’t in danger, but I was getting worried about his mental health.  I tried a different tactic.

“Charlie, when I find I keep worrying about something over and over I try to think about something else to take my mind off it.”

“You mean like the monsters under my bed?”

“Um, sure.  Have you seen the monsters, Charlie?”

“No, but I know they’re there.”  And so it went, for about another 20 minutes with talk about the monsters under his bed.  I convinced him to make a scary mask to put on at night time so if the monsters came out they would be frightened.  And to threaten them with a vial of lake water.

As I was leaving the pool – Charlie’s mother raised her head almost imperceptibly.  She wearily thanked me for answering his questions, apologized for his interfence with my pool time, then dropped her head back onto her lounge chair.  Her sunken eyes had an empty, glazed look.  She was probably just enjoying a few minutes’ reprieve from his constant questions and need for reassurance.

Either that or amoebas were already at work.



Filed under General Mumblings, humor, Uncategorized

15 responses to “Charlie and the Brain Eating Amoeba

  1. Very nice post. I’m not great with kids, but those ones who are so serious in their interactions do appeal to me. I liked the fact that his mother had probably been following along with every one of his enquiries around the pool, making sure that all was OK. I expect that she really appreciated your taking the time.

    I am curious if your “name” derives from the insect or the books. I just popped down to the basement and found my mother’s copy of What Katy Did, inscribed with “Xmas 1934.”

    • Well, my name is Katy, and spelled with a y, not the cutesie “ie”. When the world of technology dictated that we come up with “user names” it was just an adaptation of Katy. Actually, I had a boss years ago that used to leave me messages K8E, instead of Katy and it just kind of stuck.

      I acutally do better with serious kids – silly kids are kind of cute, but I find I tire of their cuteness (except my grandchildren, of course, they are cute all danged day). This little guy was bordering on neurotic.

  2. A discount is a discount is a discount.

  3. u folks have a brain-eating amoeba living in certain warm waters…and some people swim in these warm waters? are they crazy? don’t answer that. very informative. .

    • Yes, we do. They also swim and water ski in the lakes with the alligators. Although Charlie professed to being scared to death (figuratively) he did not get out of the water.

  4. I read to my grandson every night and he reads to me…he’s in CA and I’m in TX…that gives his mother “me” time for at least 30″ in the evening and keeps us connected. There’s lots of conversation with the two books. I like that you allayed Charlie’s fears…kids need to be assured and reassured…and if that mom is a single mother…you are one of those members of his village that can give him + input and strokes. I like this story.

    • As long as I don’t get the title of village idiot, I’m okay with that. My boys were both were hyperactive bundles of wound up craziness. I always appreciated a few minutes of relief when someone else could deflect their frenetic energy away from me. Other people’s children always seemed rather slow to me. Charlie really did touch my heart with his incessant need for reassurance. I did not know his mother – but she certainly seems like she could use a friend. I certainly hope Charlie can get relief from his obsession with impending danger.

  5. This is why I don’t believe children should ever watch news. But this kid seems to have an anxious condition. It’s a shame when the few children you do get to see end up being sort of annoyingly old for their age.

    • I know – I think some kids, especially intelligent children prone to obsessions, should not watch most news programming. I hope to see Charlie again – I think we could be friends. I really do miss seeing children. It really is a rarity, and that seems sad to me.

  6. My heart goes out to Charlie. Did you know his Mom?
    Thank you for giving your time to him – letting him explore his thoughts, etc. You ensured his love for nature, curiosity, etc. Good for you!
    Great story!

    • He was a real cutie, very polite, and just so earnest in his worry. I am sure his mom was listening – he never really moved too far away from her chair, but his willingness and ability to talk to anyone did concern me a little, perhaps because he seemed so vulnerable. I miss my grandkids so much – I am something of a child whisperer, if truth be told. I can usually calm most – perhaps all those years of corralling my rowdy, exuberant sons.

  7. Nice story. Your kindness and patience went a long way.

  8. Pingback: I Did Not, I Repeat, I Did Not Have a Bad Week at Work | k8edid

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