When 14-year-old Cole Barnett plays shortstop on Newburgh, Indiana’s All-Star baseball team, he’s focused on the action. But the athlete has other things on his mind, too-such as whether he ate properly before the game, his blood-sugar level and operating the insulin pump attached to a small tube inserted under the skin of his abdomen. Playing sports in hot weather is especially challenging for the teenager with type 1 diabetes.

Cole, a freshman at Castle High School, was diagnosed in August 2004 at age 6. From the intensive care unit of a hospital near his home, he was sent to Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, where his parents Jim and Heidi received training on how to help their son manage a disease they knew nothing about.

They are wiser now, times two: Cole’s older brother Kennan, a senior at Castle, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a 16-year old sophomore. The brothers were always close- “he’s my best friend,” Cole says-but sharing the disease brought them even closer. For continuing diabetes care, Riley’s partnership with Deaconess Gateway Hospital in Newburgh has enabled Cole to see Riley pediatric endocrinologist Juan Sanchez, M.D., right in his hometown.

“I want Cole to play baseball and only worry about striking out or turning that double play,” his mother says, “not about his blood sugars going low and having to take himself out of the game.” To help make that wish a reality, Cole’s family helped to start a local chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in their area, and they have been a driving force behind an annual diabetes walk at Holiday World that has raised more than $2 million in seven years. “The money will go for research toward a cure,” explains Cole, who has been amazed at how his teams, church and community turn out for the event.

Cole and his family also meet with other families who have a child newly diagnosed with diabetes. Cole says he wants the other kids to know “that you can get through it, that it doesn’t have to be as big of a deal as people make it out to be.”

“Cole is not going to let this disease get in the way of doing what he wants to do,” Heidi says. She wants him to keep that winning attitude until a cure is found, which the family is optimistic will be in their Riley Champion’s lifetime.

 

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