Saturday, January 20, 2007

Teen loses battle against seizures

Anthony Cheresnowsky once told Landstown Middle School football coach Tracy Wertz that he wanted to be the next Percy Harvin.

"No, you want to be the next Anthony Cheresnowsky," Wertz replied.

Anthony, 13 and a seventh-grader, died Monday at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters before he could challenge Harvin in the record books.

FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS-Viewing: Tonight and Friday from 6 to 9 at Altmeyer Funeral Home, 5792 Greenwich Road-Service: 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Calvary Revival Church, Norfolk-Reception: A potluck dinner will be served after the funeral service at Landstown Middle SchoolWANT TO HELP?A memorial fund in Anthony Cheresnowsky's name has been set up at Chartway Federal Credit Union. Go to any Chartway location, mention his name and account number 95333900 to contribute.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story gave the incorrect name of Crystal Cheresnowsky's church, where Anthony's funeral service will be held. The church is Calvary Revival Church, not Calvary Bible Church. The service will be held at 2:30, not 2.

He was hospitalized with seizures on Nov. 12, four days after scoring the only touchdown in Landstown's 7-0 victory over Bayside in the Virginia Beach Middle Schools championship game. He never regained consciousness.

"Anthony was in the same mold as Percy," Wertz said, referring to the former Landstown High All-American and University of Florida star. "He was phenomenal. I'd almost bet my reputation that he'd make it in the pros."

Anthony lived in Twin Canal with his mother, Crystal Cheresnowsky, and twin sisters, Alicia and Alexis, 11.

Crystal is a security guard at Green Run High School, but hasn't worked since Anthony became ill. She long ago exhausted her leave, as well as 20 days donated by fellow employees.

Recently, her car broke down. She receives aid from her church, Calvary Revival Church, and United In Him, an affiliated ministry with offices near the Cheresnowskys' home.

A fund has been established at Chartway Federal Credit Union to help the family.

Jackie Andrews and Vicki Stephenson, workers with United In Him, frequently split shifts to be with Crystal at the hospital.

They spent much of their time at Anthony's bedside, talking to him and praying for a miracle. Andrews believes their prayer was answered, although not in the manner they hoped.

"I talked to a lady at the hospital whose 9-year-old son was going to be operated on for a brain tumor, and it disappeared," she said.

The Cheresnowsky family in happier times: Alexis, left, Crystal, Anthony and Alicia.

A sudden sickness

Anthony's official cause of death was meningoencephalitis compounded by seizures. The illness simultaneously resembles meningitis, an inflammation of the outer cover of the brain, and encephalitis, an inflammation of brain cells or the brain itself.

The first sign that anything was wrong occurred Nov. 7. Anthony complained of a headache that night, and stayed home from school the next morning, the day of the middle schools championship game.

He went to school later that Wednesday, and felt well enough to play in the game. The next day he had a fever of 103, and Crystal took him to an outpatient emergency facilit y. He was diagnosed with a virus, given ibuprofen and sent home, Crystal said.

Anthony felt well enough that Friday and Saturday to go out with friends, but returned early on Saturday and went to bed at 4 p.m. He awoke Sunday, Nov. 12, with seizures.

He was transported to Sentara Princess Anne Medical Center by ambulance and then taken to Children's Hospital in Norfolk.

Doctors tested him for myriad diseases ranging from AIDS to Cat Scratch Fever, before settling on meningoencephalitis, Crystal said.

Meningoencephalitis isn't normally fatal, said Dr. Svinder S. Toor, a pediatric neurologist with Children's Specialty Group and one of Anthony's doctors. Anthony's case was complicated by the seizures.

"Encephalitis can abate, but seizures are intractable," Toor said. "They put a lot of demand for energy on the brain cells. Eventually, the body can't supply that energy, and cells begin dying."
Toor doesn't know how Anthony contracted the disease.

"It's a very, very complicated case," he said. "We see it once in awhile. This is not the first one we haven't been able to control.

"It's very unfortunate. Anthony was very healthy, very fit."

Anthony Cheresnowsky scores for the Woodstock Panthers in a 2005 Virginia Beach Parks and Rec league game.

A rising star on the field

Crystal can't remember the last time her son was sick. Her abiding memory of Anthony is that of a robust, confident athlete.

Anthony ran track in three AAU Junior Olympics and played basketball. But his first love was football.

He was a member of two teams last fall - both champions. Anthony rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and scored 18 touchdowns in seven games for Landstown.

He was also on the Hampton Roads Wolfpack, which won an American Youth Football title in December. AYF is a national organization, similar to Pop Warner, and holds its championships in Lakeland, Fla.

Anthony's favorite players were Terrell Owens, Michael Vick and Reggie Bush.

"He (thought) he was T.O. (Owens)," Crystal said. "The thing he liked most was scoring touchdowns. If he couldn't touch it or run it, he'd pout."

Anthony enjoyed the attention that went with being a star.

"He was cocky," Crystal said.

He also had a reputation as the class clown, but sometimes took a joke too far.

"Anthony was the most active, energetic kid you could meet," said Andrews, who met him four years ago. "But sometimes he was disrespectful."

He was transferred to the Center for Effective Learning during sixth grade, but was allowed back at Landstown in the fall.

"His teachers said he had turned it around, and was being a positive influence on other kids," Andrews said.

A pall has hung over the house since Anthony became ill.

"I miss his smile, his personality," Crystal said. "He kept the house going and kept me on my toes."
Christmas was subdued last month. Crystal celebrated with the girls in the morning - "I tried to act happy," she said, "and then went to visit Anthony.

"I didn't get him any presents. I was going to wait and spoil him when he got home."

Anthony wore No. 11 for Landstown Middle, the same number that Harvin wore for Landstown High.

"Anthony was one of those rare kids," Wertz said. "He had great speed, great agility, great field awareness.

"It took three or four players to bring him down, and he would fight until the last second."

Anthony fought meningoencephalitis for 65 days, and no one would deny he went out a champion.


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