19-year-old girl who contracted brain-eating amoeba 'became a different person' before she died

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Kerry Stoutenburgh's family and loved ones say she was "a brave, beautiful and brilliant human being."

But after the college student contracted a brain-eating amoeba while swimming on vacation in Maryland, everything changed.

Stoutenburgh's family says she started complaining of a headache and sensitivity to light a few days after she returned home to upstate New York.

SEE MORE: How A Florida Teen Survived A Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba Infection

The doctors at the hospital told them it was simply dehydration. But Stoutenburgh's sister says she thought it was something much worse.

She told People: "She was discharged from the hospital, and she came home to take a nap. When she woke up, she was a completely different person running around and yelling gibberish. It was terrifying."

Photos of Stoutenburgh:

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Oh my love, I can't help but ask why. You are my true love, my soulmate. I feel so lost without you. You are everything to me. I can't walk into our bedroom without breaking down calling your name. I want to hold you again so badly. We had such a long beautiful life ahead of us. But I know you are in peace, I stayed with you till the end like I always promised. I made sure you passed easy. You have given me love that no one ever could. We have had so many great times together, even if most of those times were us curled up in bed binge watching tv together. Just on Friday we sat in our pajamas and watched Xmen together. I'm proud I gave you a wonderful life full of never ending love and comfort. You are my love, my monkey, my lovey, my one and only.
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They rushed Stoutenburgh back to the hospital, but it was too late to save her.

The 19-year-old was taken off her respirator and died Aug. 31.

You've probably heard of the parasite that killed her: Naegleria fowleri. The infection it causes is rare and deadly.

It has a fatality rate of over 97 percent; only three people in the U.S. have survived a Naegleria infection in the past 50 years.

But again, infections are rare. Doctors see cases about zero to eight times a year, almost always from July to September.

The amoeba is found in warm fresh water, like lakes, hot springs and swimming holes. And an infection happens when water that has the amoeba enters the body through the nose.

A GoFundMe page was set up on behalf of the Stoutenburgh family to collect donations.

More on Katie's tragic story:

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