15-year-old Ben Lobel dreams of being a film director. The creative Castle High School student from Newburgh, Ind., started writing his own movie scripts when he was a little boy. He is directing his first one-act play at school this year. His ability to take charge and “see the bigger picture” has come in handy ever since his life story took a dramatic plot twist 10 years ago.
Ben was 6 years old when a close friend of the family was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. “I remember asking a million questions,” recalls Ben’s mother, Dana Lobel, who wanted to be sure she would recognize such symptoms in either of her sons. About a month later, Dana grew concerned when Ben started getting very thirsty, feeling lethargic and using the bathroom more often. “At first I thought I was just being neurotic,” says Dana. But when Ben began getting up overnight to use the bathroom, she knew something was wrong. A urine test at their doctor’s office pointed to type 1 diabetes.
Ben went to St. Mary’s Hospital in Evansville for his initial care, then began seeing an endocrinologist in their community. But Dana felt something was missing. Their doctor did not specialize in treating children. “He never smiled, and he never talked to Ben—instead he talked to me,” says Dana. “Once we formed a support group in town for families coping with diabetes, I started hearing from parents how great Riley was.”
Ben began seeing Riley endocrinologist Juan Sanchez, M.D., who travels to Newburgh regularly through Riley’s partnership with Deaconess Gateway Hospital. “He is wonderful,” says Dana. “What I really like is that he talks directly to Ben about his disease and his care. I think that’s really important. It’s something Ben has to take care of his whole life.” When Ben received an insulin pump five years ago, he went to the main Riley Hospital campus in Indianapolis for training and support, but the family is grateful that the majority of his Riley care is available right in their hometown.
Ten years after the diagnosis, Dana credits the excellent diabetes support Ben receives through Riley, along with his own strength and maturity, for helping him manage his disease so independently. “He really has been amazing. He just deals with it. He totally takes care of himself.” The Lobel family is committed to giving back to Riley in any way they can, including sharing Ben’s story during the annual WIKY Riley Radiothon, and supporting the RiIey Dance Marathon at Castle High School, which raised more than $11,000 for Riley in January 2014. “We are glad to support Riley,” says Dana. “We know how important it is.”
Ben says he is grateful to Riley for always being there for him, and to Dr. Sanchez for showing how much he cares. After living with diabetes for 10 years, Ben shares this advice for other kids coping with the disease: “If it isn’t going away, make it easier on yourself. The sooner you take control of diabetes, the sooner diabetes stops taking control of you.”