Lowcountry survivor tells her story of living with Arteriovenous Malformation, or AVM

2 Your Health

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – In the newly released autopsy reports, experts say 10-year-old RaNiya Wright died of an Arteriovenous Malformation, or AVM. But what is an AVM?

It’s something doctors say a person can be born with that causes bleeding in the brain.

AVM only affects 10 in every 100,000 people. Of those 10 who experience an AVM, an average of four people will suffer a brain hemorrhage. Other impacts can include brain deficits as well.

Count on 2’s Carolyn Murray recently spoke with a woman who said she nearly died from it. Today, she is telling her story to help others, and because she is so grateful to be alive.

“They told my parents the first night after my surgery that if I made it through the night, maybe I would make it—the didn’t know. They thought maybe I could be totally paralyzed, totally blind, I would never have a normal life, I would probably have to have around the clock care for the rest of my life. So, they really gave them some hard issues to face.”

40 years ago – April 20th, 1979 – Ardmease Cunningham suffered Arteriovenous Malformation. She was 17-years-old and hemorrhaging in her brain.

“The night that I really took ill with my AVM, I was at a Jack and Jill spring dance at the old Holiday Inn at the airport,” she recalled. “That particular night I was dancing and something just popped in my head.”

Ardmease says at first she thought she was having another migraine and she felt sick to her stomach.

“I asked a friend if I could lay my head on his shoulder and everything else went blank to me,” she said. “They had to stop the car because I started regurgitating and by the time I got home I was semi-unconscious.”

Ardmease’s mother and a neighbor rushed her to the hospital.

“They had to call a neurologist in to do a spinal tap and that’s when they determined that I was hemorrhaging. They could see my veins were tangled and matted on the cat scan. He didn’t even know how I made it all that time,” she said.

She described the condition; “Weak blood vessels that are tangled in the brain, it’s a small percentage that has it, but you are born with it. Back then I had signs, but I just never talked about it.”

“As I think back when I was a young child, like 4 or 5-years-old, and I would run up the steps and my head would be pulsating and I thought that my head was pulsating rapidly because I ran up the stairs really fast. Really, that was a sign of my AVM.”

She said she started having regular headaches. “Maybe every other month,” she said.

Ardmease says despite the odds she is alive and well and committed to telling her story.

“Look at me now, it is God’s goodness and mercy that has me here now.

Ardmease has a few deficits as a result of AVM. She has challenges with her short-term memory and her vision is one eye is weak.

Still, she has still gone to college earned a Bachelors and 2 Masters degrees. She is also the mother of two boys.

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