When 6-year-old Leland Shoemake suddenly started complaining of headaches, his parents, Amber and Tim, knew something was wrong, they just didn’t expect it to be so serious.
Doctors discovered that Leland had contracted Balamuthia mandrillaris, a free-living amoeba which can cause serious infection of the brain and spinal cord. While rare, this amoeba is able to enter the body when soil containing Balamuthia comes in contact with wounds and cuts.
Doctors immediately started treating Leland at the hospital, but his symptoms kept worsening.
In a Facebook page the family created to keep their community updated, Amber wrote, “He’s being kept sedated but his pressures keep spiking. 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.”
Sadly, only a short time later, Leland passed away.
“Reality still hasn’t set in that he’s not here with us,” Amber wrote. “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.”
Leland’s devastated parents went home from the hospital for the first time to try to do the unthinkable – pick out the clothes for Leland’s burial. That’s when they saw it – a spiral-bound notebook sitting on the table in the living room.
When Amber saw what was written on it she broke down in tears.
Perhaps somehow knowing he would never make it home, Leland had left a note for his parents to find.
“Still with you / thank you mom and dad / love mom and dad / it’s a good day,” the note read.
“We were in shock and broke down as soon as we saw it,” Amber said. “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.”
After Leland’s passing, Amber set up a foundation in his honor. The proceeds go to helping underprivileged kids at Christmas, which was one of Leland’s favorite holidays.
“My hope is to spread awareness and help spread Leland’s love throughout,” she said. “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.”