Moms

Baseball teams pay tribute to Arlington boy who died from rare amoeba illness

The White Sox played the Storm on Monday night, but players from both teams wore Rangers hats.

The move was a tribute to Kyle Lewis, a 7-year-old Arlington boy who died Sunday after contracting an illness from an amoeba in a river near Glen Rose.

Kyle played for the Rangers in the Mansfield Youth Baseball Association, and their first game was supposed to be Monday. The team, coached by Kyle's father, Jeremy Lewis, took the rest of the week off.

"This kid was full of life, loved by everyone," his father said. "If you knew him, your life was better."

Kyle died from primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a rare but almost always fatal illness caused by the Naegleria fowleri amoeba, said Dr. Ryan Meyer, the attending physician at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth.

"It typically starts with fever and headache," Meyer said. "Most deaths occur within a week of the onset of symptoms."

The Texas Department of State Health Services warns that Naegleria fowleri is assumed to be present in all the state's rivers, lakes, ponds, tanks and streams.

However, contracting the illness is rare.

"This was my first [case], and several of my colleagues haven't seen it," Meyer said. "I've not known of anyone who has survived."

Only 10 cases of primary amebic meningoencephalitis have been reported in Texas since 2000, said Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the state health department.

'Kyle made you smile'

Kyle's death stunned family and friends.

Jeremy Lewis said his daughter, Peyton, 10, still hadn't come to grips with losing her little brother.

"He was everything to her," the father said. "He was her friend when she was down. They did everything together."

Kyle's mother, Julie Lewis, said a song by Uncle Kracker called Smile could have been written for her boy. The chorus goes: "You make me smile like the sun, fall out of bed, sing like bird, dizzy in my head, spin like a record, crazy on a Sunday night."

"It's a very uplifting song," she said. "Kyle made you smile. He walked into a room and brought the sunshine out."

Jeremy Lewis believes that Kyle must have contracted the illness from the Paluxy River while the south Arlington family vacationed Aug. 16-19 at Dinosaur Valley State Park.

"The whole family was swimming," he said. "We were all right beside him."

Kyle felt ill during a Wednesday scrimmage game, Jeremy Lewis said.

His parents took him to a hospital early Thursday. Julie Lewis said her son's condition never improved and rapidly deteriorated about 5:30 a.m. Sunday. He died shortly after 11 a.m., she said.

Tributes

Warren Berryman, commissioner of the 8-year-old division of the baseball association, and Kevin Lewis, association president, said Kyle will not be forgotten. Decals with his number -- No. 5, after his favorite player, Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler -- will adorn all teams' batting helmets. The Mansfield 8U Rangers will plant a tree, and the association will install a park bench with a plaque bearing Kyle's name, they said.

"We'll invite more than 1,000 players and their families to participate in a ceremony to dedicate the season to him," Kevin Lewis said.

Terry Evans, 817-390-7620

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