Jacquez Welch, 17-year-old senior linebacker and running back for Northeast High School’s football team collapsed suddenly on Sept. 20 after a group tackle during a game against Seminole Osceola High School, and didn’t get back up.
The unresponsive teen was immediately rushed to Bayfront Hospital in St. Petersburg where he was diagnosed with a preexisting condition that caused severe bleeding in the brain.
Although his family wasn’t aware at the time, doctors reportedly said Welch had a brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM). It is an abnormal tangle of blood vessels connecting arteries and veins, which disrupts normal blood flow and oxygen circulation, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Welch’s football team asked the public for their support as the 17-year-old remained in ICU on life support.
Please continued prayers for Jacquez Welch! His family, friends, teammates, coaches, teachers need strength more than ever!!
— Northeast Football (@NEHI_Football) September 21, 2019
“Please continued prayers for Jacquez Welch! His family, friends, teammates, coaches, teachers need strength more than ever!!” Northeast Football wrote on Twitter on Sept. 22.
However, the following day Welch’s mother, Marcia Nelson, announced at a press conference that her son was “completely brain dead,” reported Bay News 9.
“It was a group tackle. Everybody got up. He got up a little slow and he didn’t get back up,” Nelson said Monday evening, describing the moment before her son collapsed.
She added that she didn’t want to put anyone off sport, emphasizing that her son’s collapse wasn’t linked to his love of football. Until Welch’s collapse, he had always appeared healthy, she said.
“I don’t want anybody to be scared of sports,” she emphasized. “It just happened to him at an early age, doing what he loved to do.”
An AVM usually occurs in the brain or spine, and if it ruptures, can cause a hemorrhage, stroke, or brain damage. Symptoms of the condition can include bleeding, nausea and vomiting, seizures, loss of consciousness, progressive loss of neurological function, partial paralysis, loss of coordination, and vision problems.
The Nelson family announced on Sept. 23 that they were going to remove their son from life support late on Monday after an honor walk at Bayfront Hospital, reported ABC Action News.
A GoFundMe page which was set up for the teen’s family to help with medical expenses said that Welch needed “a miracle in the biggest way.”
“I am content. This is not anything I could control,” the teen’s mother said.
Welch was described as an “incredible kid” by Northeast coach Jeremy Frioud, reported the Tampa Bay Times. He excelled academically with a 4.0 GPA and had recently received an offer from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
In Welch’s honor, Northeast High School plans to offer a football player a scholarship of $5,000 per year.