OKLAHOMA CITY — The parents of a 24-year-old woman who was killed by a brain-eating amoeba are now on a mission to raise awareness.
Elizabeth Knight, a young single mother of two, died earlier this month after contracting the organism in Lake Murray.
That brain-eating amoeba is typically found in warm, fresh water like lakes, rivers, and ponds.
It enters the body through the nose and travels to the brain where it can kill in a matter of days.
Mike and Alonie McKown have lit a candle every day since their daughter’s death.
“This is a daughter that was healthy, vibrant, lively, happy go lucky a few days ago, and now they’re telling us she’s, for the most part, not with us any longer,” said Mike McKown.
Beth Knight went swimming at Lake Murray on Tuesday, August 4.
By Friday, she was at the ER with a severe headache. They treated her and sent her home, but she was back the very next day.
“Eyes were bulging and she was just swaying back and forth uncontrollably, and moaning,” said Alonie McKown.
Doctors thought it was bacterial meningitis, but Knight rapidly deteriorated and had to be airlifted to Oklahoma City, where doctors told her parents she had no brain activity.
“They did start questioning had she been in rivers, had she been in lakes,” said Mike McKown.
Knight passed away Monday, August 10.
They found out Knight had contracted a brain-eating amoeba that caused the disease Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis.
“We have done a ton of research. We reached out to the other families,” said Alonie McKown.
And the McKowns have taken to social media to get the word out and try and get people to sign a petition, started by another woman who lost a child.
The petition is to make the disease mandatory to report at a federal level and possibly to have lakes tested.
“We want to make sure everyone is aware of this organism, how rapidly fatal this organism is; not only to the public, but to the medical community,” said Mike McKown.
Knight left behind a five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son.
The McKowns can’t bring their daughter back, but they’re hoping sharing her story will save another family from the same heartache.
This disease is very rare.
According to the CDC, there have been 133 cases reported in the United States, with only 3 people surviving.
But the McKowns say if you’re going to be swimming in a lake or river, it’s worth the one dollar investment to buy nose plugs and wear them in the water.