Inspired by fallen teammate

Western Tech: Ever-popular Michael Hassan died the day after a recent game, but he remains a big part of the Wolverines.

High Schools

April 21, 2005|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Western Tech was down, but far from being out - especially when the players cheered, in unison, "Do it for Mike." The rallying cry led to a five-goal fourth quarter in Tuesday's boys lacrosse game at Dundalk.

"We knew we had them on the ropes when Dundalk called time out. And when we saw the number of seconds left on the scoreboard - 22 - we thought it was a sign," said defender Ben Lowe, whose Wolverines' comeback fell short, 8-7.

"Mike's jersey number was 22, and that's the number on my helmet. That's the number that's been on everybody's helmet" since teammate Michael Hassan died.

Hassan, 18, known for being a tenacious defender on the lacrosse field, and for his outgoing personality off of it, died on April 3 of a rare congenital disorder called cerebral arteriovenous malformation or AVM, which resulted in severe bleeding inside his brain.

An immensely popular student at Western Tech, Hassan died a day after he played in a tournament at Parkville High against Quince Orchard of Montgomery County. During the first quarter, the senior came off the field and told coach Terry Green he had a headache.

"Michael had just run off the field and sat down on the bench and, at that point, asked for a substitute," said Green. "We iced his head down, we got him some water. But then he went from talking to mumbling. At that point, his condition having deteriorated, we got him to [Maryland] Shock Trauma [Center]."

Two surgeries revealed AVM, which lay dormant and undetected in their son, doctors told Fahmeeda and Bilal Hassan. Devout Muslims, the Hassans declined to have an autopsy.

"You don't really have any symptoms. He was a healthy kid. From all that I've read, only about 2 percent of the American population could have this. It's like someone having a third limb - just a malformation he happened to have," said Fahmeeda Hassan, whose son had more than 1,000 people at his funeral service on April 5.

"Of the people there, about 400 of them were from Western Tech. I knew Michael was a very friendly and outgoing person, but the school has been very supportive," said Fahmeeda. "I know Michael helped build up the junior varsity program by recruiting players. He had a lot of charisma and was very charming."

An environmental science student, Hassan had a passion for issues involving nature, said athletic director Barbara Bates.

"There's a huge display case in school with about 15 pictures of Michael on field trips - standing in a stream, or on a mountain or just recycling," Bates said of Hassan, whose jersey will be retired and given to his family at season's end. "And in every single one of the photos, there's Michael, with a smile on his face and his arms outstretched like, `Tah-dah! - here I am.' "

Dr. Margaret Goodman, a neurologist with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, described AVM, which is treatable by brain surgery, as "a tangle of swollen or dilated blood vessels in the brain that causes the arterial and venous circulation to intermingle."

"Because of the intermingling of the circulation in that small tangle, it can cause increased pressure and predisposition to bleeding in the brain," said Goodman. "What happens is people are usually born with this, and it can be hereditary."

Goodman often treats boxers for subdural hematomas, which, unlike AVM, occur from punches that cause bleeding on the surface of the brain. AVM "is the last thing you want in an athlete because of the risk of cerebral hemorrhaging, seizures, stroke or even death" simply from exertion, Goodman said.

"If someone exerts themselves, it can cause them to bleed. The only way to detect it is by an MRI or an angiogram."

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