ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The mother of Jacquez Welch is working to raise awareness about the condition that took her son's life through the game he loved.
The 18-year-old Northeast High School football player died in September after collapsing during a game. Marcia Nelson, his mother, said he had a brain condition no one knew about called AVM.
"What he had, what he passed away from, nobody knew nothing about," Nelson said.
Arteriovenous malformation, also known as AVM, is an abnormal connection between the arteries and veins in the brain.
Neurosurgeon Kirk Jobe at Bayfront Hospital in St. Pete says just 10 out of 100,000 people have the arteriovenous malformation condition. It's considered a "silent" condition because it doesn't have any signs or symptoms for many people until someone has blood vessels rupture in their brain. It's often not passed down from relatives and can vary significantly from one patient to the next.
Doctors say there was no way to prevent it and no way to predict it. It wouldn't have mattered if Jacquez was playing football or eating breakfast on a Saturday morning. Jobe says this could have happened to him at any time.
"It literally is a ticking time bomb in the head and there is no way to predict when this will happen nor who is walking around with this," Neurosurgeon Kirk Jobe explained.
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Now Jacquez's mother is working to start the Jacquez Welch Foundation, which she hopes will create a scholarship fund for students and shed light on AVM. She said she is in the process of getting paperwork together.
"I want to educate people, let them know it's okay for them to still do what they did and it's nothing I could change but still be aware of signs of what possibly they could have," said Nelson.
To raise funds, she is hosting a flag football tournament. She plans to make it an annual event.
The event is scheduled for March 28 at the Joe DiMaggio Sport Complex. Anyone can sign up to play. The deadline is Friday Feb. 28. Click here for more information.
She is also accepting donations for the foundation through Paypal. Forms can be obtained by emailing Jacquezwelchfoundation@gmail.com. You can also click here to donate.
"It helps me cope with him being gone and it keeps his name alive," she said.
The tournament will be two days after what would have been Jacquez's 18th birthday.
This May, Nelson said he would have graduated. She's set her own goal of obtaining her GED by then.