SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA) — Continuous stomach issues at the age of three sent Barrett Diebold to Arkansas Children’s in Little Rock to be checked out by pediatric doctors.
“I would throw up about 50 times a day,” said Barrett.
It was at the Children’s hospital where he was diagnosed with a sickness that was almost too coincidental. Barrett learned he had Barrett’s Esophagus. He immediately went into surgery.
“They basically took my stomach and created a new esophagus,” Barrett recalled.
For almost nine months after his procedure he had routine checkups but overall was able to return to normal life, although he does have minor limitations like the inability to drink carbonated beverages.
While the success of his surgery was good news for the Diebold family, they were still worried about what could be in store for Barrett.
“The projection was that I would have esophageal cancer and be on a feeding tube by age 15 or 16,” said Barrett. “I’m a healthy, active 15 year old and I’m not in a wheelchair and I’m not on a feeding tube.”
This outcome has encouraged the teen to give back in more ways than one. As an inaugural ambassador for Arkansas Children’s Northwest, he uses his story to inspire others.
“It’s very difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel so I think seeing someone who has had positive outcomes shows you a level of hope,” Barrett continued. “Bringing joy to kid’s faces in the hospital is truly a life-changing experience.”
The young philanthropist also volunteers for ACNW’s Color or Hope Gala every year, in addition to collecting toys for hospitalized children as part of the Festival of Stars Toy Drive.
“Generosity breeds generosity and whether you have the time, money or the talent, you can find a way to give back to this community,” Barrett said.