Smart and athletic, Zyrees Oliver had a bright future washed away when widely accepted hydration advice ended up killing him. Andréa Maria Cecil investigates.
The words hung in the air: brain dead.
Only days earlier he was a strong, healthy, God-fearing 17-year-old who in little more than a year at his high school had become captain of the football team and boasted a 3.8 GPA. Zyrees Oliver planned to play college football. Then he wanted to go into the NFL—his path plainly divergent from that of his incarcerated father.
Now he lay unresponsive in a bed in the ICU of an Atlanta hospital, his mother struggling to comprehend the neurologist’s words.
Exactly two weeks after a previous hospital visit—on Aug. 5, 2014—Zyrees, having been responsibly following medical advice to hydrate as much as possible, passed out at a late-afternoon football practice, teammates told his family. They took him to the head coach’s office to rest, his aunt said in a written account provided to the CrossFit Journal. At around 9 p.m., the coach called Zyrees’ mother, Monique Oliver. She arrived to find her son lying on the office floor, having consumed 2 gallons of Gatorade and 2 gallons of water, according to the account. When the teenager rose from the floor, he vomited.
“I’ll be all right. I just need to lie down,” family members said he told his mother.
They were the last words he spoke to her.