At just 19-years-old, it seemed like Kerry Stoutenburgh had her whole life ahead of her. Yet, after taking a swim in a Maryland river, the young woman would quickly tragically die after contracting a terrible brain-eating parasite.
Kerry was from Kingston, New York, and this student at CUNY’s Brooklyn College had dreams of becoming a film director. Now, she’ll never get the chance. The 19-year-old girl’s fate changed in what may have been a blink of the eye, as she contracted the deadly amoeba (Naegleria fowleri) while swimming in the Octoraro Creek and North East Creek on Aug. 20, per The Daily Mail.
Kerry was enjoying the end of her summer vacation by taking a trip to Maryland with her older sister, Katie, their mother, Wendy, and Kerry’s good friend, Cody Philips. This holiday turned deadly, as she was hospitalized a week after the swim with symptoms that included vomiting and persistent headaches.
She was initially treated and sent home, according to The Daily Freeman, but her conditioned worsened. After she was hospitalized for a second time, the staff thought she had meningitis, but tests proved that theory wrong. Sadly, it was all too late for Kerry. She passed away on Aug. 31.
“It is a catastrophic type of infection,” Ulster County health commissioner Dr. Carol Smith said, after the Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center confirmed that the amoeba was present in Kerry’s system. “It really progresses to fatality quite quickly.” Though there is an experimental drug that’s used to treat such infections, there’s no guarantee that it could have saved Kerry’s life.
Kerry’s family said she was a girl scout, a talented musician who played a variety of instruments, and idolized Quentin Tarantino, 53, and David Fincher, 54. She had a YouTube page with her movies, including a short film, Ghostly Interruptions. A Go Fund Me page was put up to help the family cover the medical and funeral costs.
It’s heartbreaking to think that with a 97% mortality rate, the odds were against Kerry. Surviving this amoeba, while possible, is very rare. Sebastian Delon, 16, became just the fourth U.S. patient to survive a battle with the brain-eating infection. Sadly, Kerry wouldn’t become the fifth.
Our thoughts are with Kerry’s family, friends and loved ones during their time of loss.