Seth Gorman, 17, of Newburgh, Ind., lives to play sports. The Castle High School junior was dealt a cruel blow when he learned he has systemic juvenile arthritis (JA). Seth and his parents, Tracy and Tammy Gorman, went to the internet to find other athletes who were diagnosed with JA and continued to play. The bleak outcome of their search: there were none.
Seth decided to become the exception. “Seth is probably the most determined individual I’ve ever met in my life,” his father says. “He has pain every single day and he never complains.”
The Gormans were originally from Evansville, but Tracy’s work as a pastor moved the family to the Muncie area for two-and-a-half years-the period when the full brunt of Seth’s illness hit. Tracy and Tammy believe their church assignment just 45 minutes from Indianapolis was no coincidence: “We totally believe that God put us there for Seth, because we needed Dr. Bowyer and we needed Riley,” Tammy says.
Seth spent nearly a month at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health during his first stay as pediatric rheumatologist Dr. Suzanne Bowyer narrowed her diagnosis, test by test. Treatment of children with JA is highly individualized, and Dr. Bowyer worked diligently toward finding a combination of medicines that would help him.
At the time, Seth attended Yorktown (Ind.) Middle School, where he played on his school basketball team as well as a Muncie baseball team. After his diagnosis, his baseball teammates added the Arthritis Foundation logo to their helmets.
For two years, Seth gave himself daily injections of a drug to reduce pain and swelling, and received steroid infusions in the hospital every three days. For a lean teenager who had always been the picture of health, the steroids’ effects were particularly traumatic.
But Seth persevered and is now in remission and off his medication since February 2010. His family has moved back to the Evansville area. The left-handed pitcher plays on the nationally ranked Indiana Bulls baseball team and hopes to realize his childhood dream to play college ball.
Seth says the coolest part of being a Riley Champion is that now, when a boy or girl who loves athletics searches the web for “kids with JA who played sports,” they won’t turn up zero results: “Now maybe there will be a kid that’ll find my name and find out it is possible.”