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Summer never let the pain stop her from caring about others or enjoying her favorite activities, especially drawing and playing with her brother. It’s just her nature to put other people first.
“She’s always concerned about others, more concerned about others than she is herself,” says her mother, Tene.
For a while, though, everyone was concerned for Summer.
She was diagnosed with onset of systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, which causes painful joint swelling (inflammation) and stiffness. Summer would have prolonged periods of pain that drained her energy and kept from enjoying her usual day-to-day activities.
“I just remember being really tired and not wanting to get out of bed,” she says. “I didn’t know if I was going to die or if I was going to not be able to walk again because I was in so much pain.”
The painful flare-ups also left her parents exhausted and searching for answers.
“I had no words, because I didn’t know what to do,” says her father, John. “As a parent, I felt like totally helpless at the time.”
Summer’s parents decided to have her care transferred to UCLA because a doctor who was instrumental in diagnosing Summer had just finished a rotation at UCLA and raved about the treatment she would receive. Her heath has improved ever since.
“It’s a total change in Summer since we’ve been at UCLA,” her father says. “And as a parent, I’m like, ‘Yay! Finally, yes, I can see light at the end of the tunnel.’”
Summer was honored and excited to be a UCLA Kid Captain. She hopes her role can inspire others during difficult times.
“Being Kid Captain is a big thing for me,” she says. “Because I can show people that I’m a leader, that your disease or your illness doesn’t discriminate you and that everybody, any size or age, can be a leader.”
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