Meet Barrett Hartz Diebold


When Barrett Diebold was 3-years-old, he began to spit up several times every day. After weeks of worsening symptoms, his mother Sarah Sparks-Diebold took her son, nicknamed Bear, went to a local pediatrician near their home in Fayetteville. But after two months, the constant spitting up and vomiting had increased to 50 or more times a day.

Sarah insisted on a referral to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. “It was amazing from the moment we checked in that first time,” Sarah says. “Everyone there made him feel as comfortable as he could be. It was clear that they had the equipment and the tools and the processes in place to take care of children.”

After months of testing, Bear was diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus, in which tissue similar to the lining of the intestine replaces the tissue lining in the esophagus. The continuous exposure to stomach acids had caused extensive damage to his esophagus. Without surgery to repair the damage, Bear’s doctors projected he would end up on a feeding tube within 5 years and develop esophageal cancer by age 16. 

“But we felt comfortable and safe at Arkansas Children’s and Dr. George Fuchs didn’t give up on us,” says Sarah. “He found our surgeon Dr. Richard Jackson, who we call our angel. I don’t know that I’ve ever met a physician who has the bedside manner that he has. He was a miracle.”

Dr. Jackson took part of Bear’s stomach to make a new esophagus, and several months later it was clear the surgery had worked. Sarah says the team at Arkansas Children’s continued to provide guidance, educating her on Sensory Integration Disorder, a result of Bear’s sense of taste being traumatized by stomach acid. “His other senses all exploded,” Sarah explains, saying that he developed an extreme sensitivity to smells and sensations, and needed occupational therapy to manage his new sensory issues.

Now, 12-year-old Bear is a gifted student, a huge Arkansas Razorbacks baseball fan, and an athlete who plays baseball, tennis and golf. “He loves Arkansas Children’s and hopes to give back as an Arkansas Children’s Ambassador,” Sarah says, “If anyone asked him, he would say, ‘They’re the people that saved my life and I owe my world to them.’” 

Donate in honor of Barrett by visiting his fundraising page here. Until no child needs us, we need you.

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