Diagnosed as a toddler, Julia Vaughn can’t remember her life before juvenile arthritis. But early diagnosis and treatment has helped her overcome the limitations of her disease.
Julia was diagnosed in the summer of 2009, when she was 2 years old. She was at her aunt’s horse farm when her family noticed she was limping. Her mom also realized the back of her left ankle was larger than her right one. Her mom called the pediatrician, and within a few days and several blood tests later, he sent them to a pediatric rheumatologist at UAB Children’s. The rheumatologist confirmed the pediatrician’s diagnosis of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).
Julia has oligoarthritis, which is when four or fewer joints are involved within the first six months of diagnosis. Thanks to the pediatrician and rheumatologist, she was diagnosed early, which has saved her from serious, long-term joint damage. Julia also has enthesitis, which is characterized by inflammation of the tendons that attach to the bones, as well as uveitis, which are inflammatory cells inside the eye. These inflammatory cells, although connected to JIA, are different in their makeup and could cause Julia to lose her eyesight if gone undetected.
While Julia has had many challenges with arthritis, she remains thankful her disease was detected early and that her doctors were aggressive with treatment. She still has some hard and painful flares, but she always gets out of bed and conquers the day. In the past, Julia has participated in cheerleading, baseball, dance and horseback riding. She loves swimming, playing volleyball and is learning how to play the clarinet. She wants everyone to know that, even when you are hurting, you should always believe in yourself and never stop doing what you love!