A Chicago-area community is grieving the loss of a high school freshman who tragically died Sunday after he suffered a stroke during swim practice.
A swim coach for James Oliver, 14, who attended Geneva High School to the west of the city, said the teen collapsed at West Chicago High School on December 8, reports ABC7.
The Geneva principal sent home a memo to parents saying that Oliver had suffered from an arteriovenous malformation, or AVM stroke, and brain hemorrhaging. He was in critical condition until he died the night of December 17.
“As a school community, our thoughts are with his brother, Sean, a GHS junior, his family and friends, and our hearts are mourning this loss,” Principal Tom Rogers said.
AVM causes tangled blood vessels, which create issues between connected arteries and veins, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
A neurosurgeon with the local Northwestern Medicine healthcare system explained that Oliver’s condition was very rare and usually congenital.
“It’s thought that most AVMs are present from birth, and so we see a lot of AVMs either being diagnosed incidentally or being diagnosed because they bleed. We see a lot of that in children, and teenagers, and young adults,” Dr. Matthew Potts said.
“About half [of the] people diagnosed with AVM experience symptoms, while the other half don’t experience any symptoms until a rupture occurs,” he added.
The Illinois high school boys’ swimming season began on November 20, just before the freshman passed away.
“He just brought me so much joy, as he did many other people,” said swim coach Jennifer Heyer-Olson. “And I think when somebody passes away, you just wish more that you could have told them that.”
Heyer-Olson coached both James and his older brother, Sean, for years.
She was so close to the brothers that when her husband was battling a life-threatening illness, the boys came by just to help out the family with yard work and chores.
“Just delightful to be around, happy, polite, doing good, just doing kid things,” Heyer-Olson said. “I just throw myself into work and hope that I can get distracted, but then when you come back to reality, it really hits.”
Those who knew Oliver said he and his older brother were inseparable, and the late swimmer “was really smart, had a great personality, and loved collecting and trading collectible cards.”
He was also active in his church’s youth group, the local ABC affiliate reported.