January 23, 2008 Albany -- Westover High school students and football players are still mourning the death of a friend and teammate. 15-year-old Freshman Shaquille Johnson died last week, and while the cause of his death isn't yet known, he had recently undergone knee surgery.
Doctors say such surgeries carry risks that can have fatal consequences, even for the young.
An enclosed locker honors the life of a young man taken much too soon. "He will be missed here and we have done some things here that will hopefully commemorate his memory," Jeff Caldwell, Westover High Head Football Coach.
"Anytime you lose a friend and anytime you lose someone who has gone through some of the blood and efforts there is always a little more comradery ship a little more closeness," said Caldwell.
And this memorial will remain in the boy's locker room until the class of 2011 graduates. "We have given Mr. and Mrs. Johnson one of his jerseys and we have enclosed his locker, so hopefully constantly our kids will have a remembrance of him,"
"I think that our younger kids, our ninth grade kids who have been with Shaquille have had a little more difficult time with it."
Shaquille spent his last holiday season recovering from knee cap reconstruction surgery. "He hurt his knee back in football season. We tried to rehab it and hopefully we could get it back by that. But it wouldn't come back and he had to have some surgery done to it," said the coach.
And though it is not known whether his death was caused by complications, there are risks with having this procedure. "There is still a risk for blood clots in the leg one to four percent in healthy individuals," says Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Bobby Prince. "It is extremely rare for there to be complications from the heart and lungs, and more than rare for death."
But no matter what the cause of Shaquille Johnson's death, he will be missed by his class and teammates.
It's not been determined that Shaquille Johnson's death was the result of a blood clot from his surgery. His autopsy results have not been released.