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South students raise awareness for rare brain conditions
Sisters Kimmie, right, and Nicole, left Boyd, stand outside the U.S. Capitol after talking with lawmakers about Ellie's law, which would increase funding and awareness for brain aneurysms.

On May 31, 2015, Kimmie Boyd suffered a brain injury related to a brain arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, is an abnormal tangle of blood vessels connecting arteries to the brain and impact less than 1 percent of the population.

Despite having just a 10 percent chance of survival, today, the now 16-year-old South Forsyth High School student is using her experience to help pass legislation that would provide more funding and promote awareness for research for AVM and brain aneurysms, including an upcoming awareness walk in San Francisco coming up on May 5 and trips to Washington, D.C. to talk to lawmakers, which she said was “a bit scary, but I got used to it over time”

“It helps by giving me a sense of accomplishment to prevent further things, so people don’t have to go through what I went through,” Kimmie said.

Along with Kimmie, her family – including her mom, Crystal Boyd, and sister, Nicole, a 15-year-old who also attends South – have joined her in advocacy.

“I guess it’s good that we went because a lot of people can’t and don’t get the opportunities,” Nicole said. “It’s good to get a word in to help people like we did.”

In March, the family went to Washington, D.C. as part of Advocacy Day to support Ellie’s Law, which would increase funding for research, interventions, treatments and prevention for brain aneurysms.

“Different groups from different foundations that are wanting money for their cause go and lobby and they set up meetings through a law firm,” Crystal said. “They set up meetings with staff members with different Senators and Congressmen’s offices.”

While Kimmie did not suffer an aneurysm, after going to the hospital, she found the Aneurysm and AVM Foundation, which seeks to help those with both conditions.

“AVMs are really rare; they occur in less than 1 percent of the population, but the same research that is for aneurisms benefits AVMs, which are preventative measures like detecting it before it bleeds, treatments and aftercare,” Crystal said.

Through the walks and lobbying, Kimmie was able to meet others who had gone through similar situations.

“It really helped me a lot because it gave me some tips on how to deal with it,” Kimmie said. “It’s nice to know there are other people that went through what I went through.”

For her mother, meeting others has also shown how lucky Kimmie was to survive her scare.

“It also makes you aware, for all of us, how lucky we are that she is doing as well as she is because we met a lot of people that were lobbying or in the group that lost someone,” Crystal said. “If you have a bleed in your brain, your percentage of survival is very low. Hers was 10 percent.”

While the family has gone across the country advocating for the conditions, Crystal said they are working to bring an event raising awareness closer to home.

“We’re hoping to do a small walk in October, which is AVM Awareness month,” she said. “So, we’d like to do that in Forsyth County. We’re kind of actually starting to get that planned out. That hopefully can start a support group type of situation where people can meet other people. It helps a lot. The recovery is long both physically and mentally for someone that has had a bleed in their brain. It takes a lot, so having other people that can relate to what you’ve gone through is very important.”