We are pleased to announce the 2020 Roman Jax Nguyen Scholarship recipient, Mikayla Boyd.

Avery’s Angels® Gastroschisis Foundation is pleased to award Mikayla Boyd with the 2020 Roman Jax Nguyen Scholarship in the amount of $500 for her college studies at Grand Valley State University in Communications.

We carefully review applications annually for someone who is an exemplary candidate, someone who not only is academically excellent, but also actively and authentically engaged in their community in a positive way. And, we are excited to announce that Mikayla is the fourth Gastroschisis survivor to be awarded this scholarship.

Avery’s Angels® Gastroschisis Foundation is dedicated to providing unconditional support, promoting awareness and research on a global scale. Our commitment to each family, patient and effort no matter where they are is something we hold as a mantra. When reflecting the memory of one of our fallen patients, it is even more important that this standard is exemplified in anything we attach our name to.

It is clear to the committee that our luck is hardly needed. The recipient’s letters of recommendations, resumes and letters of intent show all the dedication and commitment of a highly successful individual. It is with all of our best wishes that we award this scholarship to Mikayla Boyd.

Mikayla Boyd – Personal Statement and Essay

I have never been ashamed of my scar. As a gastroschisis survivor, the strange, twisted mark that scores my midriff seems so normal, almost natural. It is a part of who I am, a symbol of my survival, and a reminder of those who helped me survive this birth defect.

Eighteen years ago, my expecting mother decided to have a 3D ultrasound, technology that was relatively new at the time of her pregnancy. Although the ultrasound was solely done for personal reasons and not medical purposes, the ultrasound technician suggested several times during her visit that my parents should call the doctor. For the next three weeks, my parents traveled to and from specialists and doctors, each telling my mother to return for checkups because of various, possible issues they identified during each of her visits. After several more ultrasounds, the doctor told my mom that an ultrasound revealed a small hole in my abdomen through which all of my intestines were protruding. The diagnosis was life changing: I had gastroschisis.

Due to complications with her pregnancy, my mother had to have a C-section six weeks earlier than her estimated due date. I weighed about four and a half pounds, and because my abdomen was so tiny, doctors could not safely fit my intestines back into my abdomen and they instead placed them inside a silo. The day after I was born, the surgeon had to enlarge the hole in my abdomen to improve blood flow to my exposed organs. For the next six days, the doctors slowly pushed my intestines back into my body until they were finally able to repair the hole. After 35 days in the hospital, I was able to go home and begin my life as a gastroschisis survivor.

I have experienced very few complications due to gastroschisis since being discharged from the hospital. I realize how blessed I am to have survived gastroschisis and that I can live my life relatively unaffected by the birth defect. I am actively involved in many types of music programs, playing French horn and percussion for my school band and the keyboard for my church’s youth praise band. I have participated in several sports and physical activities including volleyball, track and field, and horseback riding. I realize that in some cases, gastroschisis results in loss and devastation for families. I want families and others with gastroschisis to know that there is hope for them, and I hope my story provides comfort and inspiration to those affected by this birth defect.

All throughout my life, I have known the importance of communication, especially when it comes to spreading the word about gastroschisis. I have always been willing to talk openly about my story and about gastroschisis to my family, friends, and others.  For my birthday treat in third grade, I brought in cupcakes decorated with the gastroschisis ribbon for my class so I could teach them about this rare birth defect. I also donated a homemade pillowcase at an Avery’s Angels’ auction to help raise money for the foundation. Communication is essential, especially when it comes to spreading awareness about something as unknown and uncommon as gastroschisis.

I am passionate about writing and how it helps connect people in different ways. I have always had a strong desire to expand my writing abilities, and I have decided to pursue communications as my major in college. Communication is vital to every business, organization, and relationship, and I believe I can use my skills to improve connections within my community. Many of my teachers and friends have encouraged me to use my writing to encourage and inspire those around me. This scholarship will be a huge help as I work to pay my own way through college and allow me to focus directly on strengthening my skills and investing in opportunities to help those in my community.

Gastroschisis impacts the lives of so many people in ways I have never imagined. I continue to meet people who knew me as an infant and who recall how scary my birth and time in the hospital were. Every time someone retells my story to me, my senses of awe and thankfulness for my life and those in my life are renewed. I would love to be able to grow and use my writing and communication skills to spread the word about gastroschisis. Many people are still not aware of this rare and life-threatening birth defect. When I was born, only one in 10,000 babies born had gastroschisis. Now however, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about one of every 1,871 babies born each year has gastroschisis. Awareness is the gateway to change, and the more we can get the word out about gastroschisis, the closer we can get to finding answers that could lead to prevention of this birth defect.

As I live out the rest of my life, I pray my story, my survival, and my life will be a bright beacon for hope, for a chance, and for a future.

Learn more about the scholarship program HERE