High School Freshman Suffers Fatal Stroke at Swim Practice

(StraightNews.org) – A 14-year-old high school freshman died after suffering a stroke during swim practice. James Oliver, a student at Geneva High School in Chicago, collapsed during a practice visit to the West Chicago High School, having endured an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) stroke and a brain hemorrhage. The teenager survived for a few weeks but died in hospital just days before Christmas.

Swim coach Jennifer Heyer-Olson paid tribute to James, saying he “brought me so much joy, as he did many other people.”

Neurosurgeon Dr. Matthew Potts from Northwestern Medicine said the condition that causes AVM strokes is usually present at birth but may not be diagnosed because patients are not always symptomatic. “About half of people diagnosed with AVM experience symptoms, while the other half don’t experience any symptoms until a rupture occurs,” he said.

School administrators informed fellow Geneva students of the teenager’s death by email and wrote, “Our thoughts are with his brother, Sean, a GHS junior, his family and friends, and our hearts are mourning this loss.”

The Mayo Clinic describes a brain arteriovenous malformation as a “tangle of blood vessels that connect arteries and veins.” While arteries take oxygenated blood to the brain, veins carry deoxygenated blood to the lungs, and an AVM disrupts this process. The malfunction can occur anywhere in the body but usually in the brain or spinal cord. The cause is unknown, although scientists believe it is congenital.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says treatment for the condition varies from patient to patient and depends on overall health and where the AVM is located in the body. For symptomatic patients, symptoms can include seizures, headache, visual and speech problems, muscle weakness, dizziness, cognitive decline, and abnormal sensation.

The Institute adds that the most significant potential danger of AVM is bleeding inside the brain, which can cause death or significant loss of brain function. The presence of the AVM usually remains undetected until patients are in their 20s or older.

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