Local wrestling coach needs help fighting deadly brain disease

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YORKTOWN, Va. (WAVY) – A ticking time bomb. That’s how a local wrestling coach describes his brain.

Richard Harrell needs surgery, and the costs are piling up. But he’s not letting his devastating diagnosis stop him from doing what he loves.

Harrell, 24, is a student at Old Dominion University studying mechanical engineering. He works as a sub contractor at NASA and he has wrestled since he was in the first grade.

He doesn’t want anything to stop him, but this brain disease is trying. Harrell wants you to hear his story and hopes you can help.

Harrell, a dedicated coach and an invested mentor ,says his passion is and will always be on the mat.

“There is no sport that makes you work as hard as wrestling,” he said.”You have to want it in this sport, this sport is brutal.”

Harrell said it takes blood sweat and tears, but lately those aren’t coming from the mat.

“A little over two years ago I was diagnosed with Arteriovenous Malformation,” he explained.

The disease, also known as AVM, sent Richard to the hospital in 2018 for emergency brain surgery after two ruptured brain aneurysms.

“The vessels in my brain that control blood are supposed to look like they’re laced together mine looks like spaghetti or knots like knotted up rope,” Harrell said.

Initially, there was a temporary solution.

“So what they do is they put a catheter up my leg all the way through my heart and into my brain and then they squirt, onyx which is essentially putting super glue on my brain,” Harrell said.

But time is not on their side, and more drastic measures are required.

“I have a ticking time bomb in my head. I think it’s a 106% minus my age of me having another aneurysm at any moment, so that like 86% of having an aneurysm right now and dying,” Harrell said.

So, on Oct. 17, he’s flying to Phoenix, Arizona for the costly surgery.

“So we’re switching to cutting my head open now and actually removing the AVM, the mass from my head,” Harrell explained.

“We have to fly out and get hotel rooms and all that. We’re already $5,000 into the surgery and we haven’t even had it yet.”

But his wrestling community is reminding him that they stick together with a GoFundMe raising money

“Most of the time, you don’t see the good in people, you always just think they’re good. This makes you really see it and it makes you emotional,” said Harrell.

Harrell could hold back the tears today, but his mom couldn’t.

“I had him at a very young age, so he’s my little buddy. We’re very close he’s my friend and I couldn’t imagine life without him,” said Minda Harrell.

What’s worse knowing he could go at any moment or dangerous surgery? Minda says she doesn’t know.

“When he’s out here I’m scared to death and I don’t want him on the mat I really don’t, but like he said, he can wake up he can not wake up one day , he walk out of the house and it can happen, he’d rather be here where something does happen that he’s doing what he loves,” Harrell said.

So they’ll keep their faith and keep wrestling.

They are looking for help. They need to raise $25,000 needed to cover surgery costs and lodging for the trip.

If you can help there is a link to their GoFundMe here.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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