By Nicole Davis
Growing up with hemophilia A looked a lot different for Cory Vaught than his life does now. A rare condition with more than 600 people diagnosed in Indiana, hemophilia A keeps blood from clotting normally and can sometimes cause uncontrollable internal bleeding. The disorder can be debilitating for those who have it, but thanks to a relatively new medication, it is much easier for people like Vaught to treat and maintain. April 17 is the annual World Hemophilia Day, a day about bringing the global bleeding disorders community together.
Vaught was diagnosed with the condition at birth. It is hereditary, passing from mother to son. His grandfather and three brothers also have it. Vaught and his wife, Dina, have a son who is not affected and a daughter who is a carrier. Vaught, a Center Grove resident, grew up in Trafalgar, attending Indian Creek High School. Having to avoid contact sports, he participated on the swim team and in the band. Vaught said he got into computers at an early age and now works in IT as a systems architect for Cisco.
“Growing up with hemophilia in a small town in a small school where everyone knows you can be a challenge,” he said. “Kids don’t understand. But I had a lot of good friends. I had a lot of good support.”
In his childhood, Vaught’s hemophilia was classified as moderate-severe. For most of his life, he had to manage bleeds after they started through painful infusions in a vein. “There’s a big misconception with hemophilia that if I were to cut myself, then I would bleed out,” he said. “That’s the farthest from the truth. What we deal with, especially as a kid, are joints.
Obviously, trauma is bad, but day-to-day, I would deal with things like, say you’re walking up the stairs, hit the stair wrong, it hurts, you say a few choice words and walk it off. I do that too, except four hours later, I start bleeding. That one little snap is the equivalent of spraining my ankle. My ankles are pretty chewed up from my childhood.”
As the treatment got better, so did his diagnosis. Hemlibra was approved by the FDA for use to treat all hemophilia A patients in 2018. Vaught switched to the medication in July 2019. Hemlibra is a self-administered shot under the skin similar to insulin, taken regularly to prevent bleeding. Since starting that treatment, he has not had a single bleed. His condition is now classified as minor.
“I still get together with my college buddies to go to free concerts every summer,” Vaught said. “I’ve always been the guy that stays behind when we walk for four or five hours. The last time we went was before COVID. Before I realized it we walked 3 1/2 miles in Chicago. I got up the next day, and I was fine. I can’t tell you how good that makes you feel. Most likely, I would have been sore that night, puffy in my ankles the next day and not walked much until I got that swelling down. I cannot put into words how life-changing this product has been to me.”
Vaught joked that no one is going to see him run a marathon anytime soon, but his quality of life has improved tremendously with this proactive medication. “In this condition, you watch to make sure you don’t run into anything,” he said. “I’m kind of klutzy. Hemophilia and klutzy don’t go well together. I would hit my hand and, two hours later, have a black bruise. That doesn’t happen anymore. It’s kind of hard to process. If I were to hit something, I would still have to take the (medication) I was taking before. (Having hemophilia) still makes a big difference of how I handle myself, but I’ve gotten much looser in the past few years.”