The family of a 16-year-old girl who died over the weekend from a suspected amoeba infection spoke to the public for the first time on Monday, saying that at least seven people were saved after her organs were donated.
Courtney Nash, who was a rising junior at Astronaut High School in Brevard County, Florida, became an organ donor at age 14, her mother, PJ Nash-Ryder, told WFTV News. Nash-Ryder said her daughter's strength and selflessness in both life and death has sustained her during this difficult time.
"I didn't get my miracle, but she has performed other miracles," said Nash-Ryder. "I know she's up in heaven with that."
Nash was reportedly infected after swimming in the St. John's River near her grandmother's house with friends and family. Just days later, she became seriously ill with the rare brain infection.
The deadly amoeba parasite enters the body through the nose and then attacks the brain and spinal cord, often resulting in death in a matter of days. Although the infection is rare, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reports the chances of contracting it increases during the summer when water temperature rises above 80 degrees.
The agency is investigating the matter and has yet to confirm whether an amoeba infection was responsible for Nash's death.
Between 2001 and 2010, about 32 amoeba infections were reported in the U.S. Thirty of those people were infected by contaminated recreational water while two people contracted the illness from a geothermal drinking water supply, according to the CDC. The agency said wearing nose plugs while swimming in fresh water, lakes and pools can reduce the risk of developing the condition.
Nash-Ryder told WFTV News that she hopes her daughter's death may lead to a greater public awareness of the dangerous parasite.
"If we can save other people's lives and they don't have to go through what I went through, I just think this would be a blessing in disguise," she said.