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Rosemount boy will be Epilepsy Foundation spokesperson

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Travis Boyum was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 4, but it hasn't slowed him down one bit.

Now 11 and a fifth grader at Shannon Park Elementary School, Travis plays basketball, lacrosse and football. He used to play baseball, but he decided the game was too slow for his tastes. And now he'll spend much of the next year telling people about it all.

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Boyum was selected recently as the Epilepsy Foundation's Winning Kid for Minnesota. The position, which Boyum won with an essay he wrote about living with epilepsy, will include several speaking engagements in the next year. He'll get a free pass to attend Camp Oz a summer camp for kids and teens with seizures. And he will be nominated to attend the National Epilepsy Foundation's Kids Speak Out program next spring in Washington, D.C.

It's a lot to take on, but Boyum appears ready for the job.

"I'm fine talking to big crowds with someone beside me," he said. "But if I have to go talk one-on-one at a table I get nervous."

Travis learned about the Winning Kid opportunity at an Epilepsy Foundation gala last year and thought it would be fun. He wrote the first draft of his essay in about 15 minutes, then spent another 20 minutes typing it.

The foundation e-mailed him a few weeks ago to let him know he'd won.

"I was just kind of like in awe laughing," he said.

Travis' first official duty as the foundation's Winning Kid was Saturday. He threw out the first pitch when the Minnesota Twins played the Seattle Mariners. He said he threw a four-seamer and put it right over home plate.

"We saw Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva," Boyum said. "We talked to (Carlos) Gomez for a while, but he's hard to talk to."

Diagnosis

Boyum was playing a game of Chutes and Ladders with his parents when it became clear there was something wrong. It was his mom's turn, he said, and when she called on him he just stared into space without responding. It was more than just a kid not paying attention, and for Brett and Heather Boyum, who had noticed Travis daydreaming and zoning out at odd times, it was the incident that convinced them there was something going on with their son.

They took Travis to the doctor. He saw a neurologist. They learned Travis had been having something called absence seizures, a mild form of seizure. He'd sit or stand where he was, oblivious to the world around him. His eyes would be open, but he wouldn't be able to see.

"Everything goes black and kind of hazy. You stand there and kind of slouch," Boyum said. "It's really strange."

Travis has never had a serious seizure, and the absence seizures have been controlled by medicine for the past 18 months. His friends at Shannon Park have never seen him have a seizure, but Travis has always been open about his epilepsy. He tells his friends and his teachers what to do if he has a seizure, or if they see someone else having one.

Getting the seizures under control isn't entirely without drawbacks. Side-effects from his medication mean he has to watch the amount of caffeine and chocolate he gets, and if he drinks anything carbonated he'll throw up.

"It's hard, because he can't have an occasional root beer float," Heather said.

The medication also makes him tire easily. Fortunately, he appears to have energy to spare.

He'll need it.

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