14-Year-Old Student Dies During Swim Practice

The community of a Chicago suburb is grappling with the sudden death of a 14-year-old high school freshman, James Oliver, who passed away on Sunday following a stroke he suffered during a swim practice earlier this month. Oliver, a student at Geneva High School, collapsed on December 8 at West Chicago High School, leading to an AVM stroke and brain hemorrhage, according to a letter sent to parents by school officials. His death, after weeks of hospitalization, has left the community in shock.

Oliver’s swim coach, Jennifer Heyer-Olson, expressed her grief, describing the young swimmer as a source of joy for many. She lamented the missed opportunity to express her appreciation for him before his untimely death.

A family friend revealed that Oliver was born with a brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a rare and congenital condition characterized by tangled blood vessels in the brain that disrupt the connections between arteries and veins. This information was confirmed by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Dr. Matthew Potts, a neurosurgeon at Northwestern Medicine, explained that AVMs are usually present from birth and are often diagnosed either incidentally or due to bleeding. He noted that AVMs are commonly diagnosed in children, teenagers, and young adults. He added that about half of the people diagnosed with AVM experience symptoms, while the other half don’t experience any symptoms until a rupture occurs.

The school community was notified of Oliver’s death via an email on Monday. The message expressed condolences to his family, friends, and particularly his brother, Sean, a junior at the same school. The brothers, who were reportedly inseparable, were both members of the swim team and trained at Heyer-Olson’s home pool.

Heyer-Olson spoke fondly of the brothers, describing them as delightful, happy, and polite. She reminisced about their summer mornings in the pool, filled with brotherly love, silliness, and whispers about trading cards. She expressed that these moments will never be the same without James.