He was just 19, but had been in and out of the hospital for the past five months.
Last Thursday was one of his better days. Jesse Bors and his mother were having lunch at Sioux City Steakhouse.
Jesse finished half of his steak and potatoes before telling his mother he was full and tired. Mandy Bors watched her son sit back in his chair and close his eyes. He was unresponsive.
Jesse was having a seizure.
Mandy called 911. Moments later, she sat in the front of an ambulance. The vehicle moved up and down as the rescue workers in the back tried desperately to revive her son.
• • •
Jesse was a fiery redhead, and the second of four boys.
"He was extremely active and hyper," said Mandy, 45. "He bounced off walls."
He started playing soccer at age 4 for a local recreational league in his hometown of Hudson. He joined a competitive league five years later.
He excelled at the sport, playing defense and charging past opposing players with his small, wiry frame.
Because of his red hair and freckles, Sam Hill, Jesse's coach in the First Hernando Soccer Association, called him "Alfred Neuman," after the iconic MAD Magazine character.
"He was always a fighter, a scrapper," Hill said. "He was a little bulldog on the field."
In 2007, he graduated from Hudson High School. Months later, his parents divorced. He lived with his mom, but still spent time with his dad, rebuilding a 1994 Acura Integra.
Jesse continued playing soccer, and ran 8 miles a day to stay in shape.
He worked at Cinema Grill in Port Richey and enrolled in classes at Pasco-Hernando Community College to become an emergency medical technician.
Life rolled along until May of 2008.
• • •
That's when Jesse's mother noticed changes in his behavior.
He was sleeping more and seemed lethargic. Mandy asked her older son, Ben, to find out if Jesse was on drugs.
"He swore he wasn't using drugs," said Ben Bors, 23, a patrolman with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. "He said something was wrong, but he didn't know what."
A few days later, Ben took his brother to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point.
By then, Jesse's eyes were losing focus, and he was experiencing memory loss.
He couldn't remember what his mother made for breakfast, where he was or what year he was in.
A doctor at the hospital said he was depressed, and suggested he see a psychiatrist. A week later, his primary doctor checked his vital signs and ordered a CAT Scan at Community Hospital.
Jesse was admitted on May 20.
At 4 a.m. the next day, hospital officials told Mandy that Jesse was moved to the intensive care unit because of confusion and changes in his vision. They performed an MRI, and found a massive brain tumor.
He was taken to Tampa General Hospital's intensive care unit.
"I never thought it was a brain tumor, but I thought, 'Now we can get it fixed,' " said Mandy. "At least now we know."
• • •
The tumor was the size of a peach. It was lodged in the center of Jesse's brain.
Because it was so close to the part of the brain that controls cognitive skills, it was inoperable. No one knew what had caused it.
Doctors inserted a shunt into Jesse's head to relieve pressure from built up brain fluid. He was placed on a ventilator and feeding tube. Another shunt drained fluid to his stomach.
Doctors wanted to treat Jesse with radiation, but the tumor caused him to thrash back and forth uncontrollably. So Ben and Mandy helped strap Jesse to a table for the treatments.
A white mesh mask with Xs drawn on it was placed on his face to map out where radiation would be targeted.
During the radiation treatments, his mother went into a separate room with a window, talking to her son through a microphone.
"I told him to be calm, and that it's almost over," Mandy recalled, tears welling in her eyes. "Just a few more seconds."
Jesse's condition started to improve. After weeks of rehabilitation, he was well enough to go home on June 19.
Months passed, and Jesse had in-home physical therapy, and eventually outpatient physical therapy. He also took oral chemotherapy.
In October, he began treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, where he received a drug called Avastin, administered through a port in his chest.
• • •
On Oct. 30, the day after his second treatment at Moffitt, Jesse had lunch with his mother at Sioux City Steakhouse. That's when he had the seizure.
Mandy remembers a sinking feeling while rescue workers tried to save Jesse.
"It (the ambulance) was moving up and down, and that's when I knew he was gone."
Later, at Morton Plant North Bay Hospital, a chaplain and a doctor told her that Jesse's heart stopped, and he couldn't be revived.
"His body had become a burden to him," she said. "I felt a sense of release."
Unbeknownst to Mandy, friends had been putting together fundraisers to help with Jesse's expenses. Mandy had stopped working at her house cleaning business in May to care for her son. Her only income was child support payments from her ex-husband.
They originally hoped Jesse could participate in the events, but plan to go on without him. Proceeds will go toward his mother's bills.
"That's what he would have wanted," Mandy said. "For us to continue everything."
Camille C. Spencer can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6229.