Tanner Barton, Not Slowed Down By Diabetes


By Andy Ross, Swimming World College Intern

Tanner Barton’s life changed forever in September of 2003. It was one week into his third grade year that Barton had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The previous summer he had spent swimming and doing gymnastics, living a normal, healthy lifestyle like any eight-year-old boy. After that fateful September day his life would never be the same.

Barton believes symptoms arose because of his inactivity after swimming and doing gymnastics.

“I spent the whole summer being active, and then all of a sudden I went to sitting down for seven hours,” Barton said. “I was thirsty all the time, I was fatigued, and constantly going to the bathroom. I even wet the bed a few times because I was constantly having to go.”

It was then that Barton was sent to a pediatrician and spent six days and five nights in a children’s hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

“I was shocked!” said Tanner’s mother Andrea of the initial diagnosis. “My husband and I have no history of type 1 diabetes in our family and we were completely taken aback.”

At the time of his diagnosis, Barton was the only diabetic in his elementary school.

“For the first two years, I didn’t think it was fair. I had a lot of ‘Why me?’ thoughts. Like, why did God have to select me?” Barton said.

After the diagnosis, Barton had to adjust to having diabetes in his life. He talked about how his mom would have to sit poolside during the first six months he had the disease, in case anything went wrong. After those six months, Barton was able to check his blood sugar on his own during practice.

Barton said that his biggest challenge in swimming is the burden of diabetes.

“I can’t just focus on the practice itself. I have to talk to my coaches in advance and look at the main objective of the set.”

Barton says he has to test his blood sugar levels after about 45 minutes of being in the pool.

“At times he may be having an incredible set then I step in and have him check his blood to avoid disaster,” said Ball State head coach Bob Thomas. “There are other times when you can tell just by looking at him that something is not right and he needs to check his blood.”

On days when this happens, Barton said he stays after practice to finish the main set.

On race day, Barton has two separate bags on deck with him- his swim bag and his diabetes bag filled with everything he needs. Barton, a 200 butterflyer, focuses more on how his body is feeling rather than the intimidation of the 200 fly. When he has good blood sugar, he is more confident.

Barton’s diabetes has made him more grateful of the smaller victories in life, like having perfect blood sugar after a three-day meet.

“Tanner is typically in a good mood with a positive attitude upon arrival at practice and throughout the process,” said Thomas. “He’s a coach’s dream. He is very goal-oriented so there are very high expectations on his part. He wants to do better, so he is constantly inquiring about what he needs to do to reach his goals.”

Barton is now an advocate for type 1 diabetes through the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. He is in his second year studying Health Science at Ball State, where he swims the 100 and 200 butterfly, and the 200 IM. In the future, he wants to be a mentor to children shortly after they are diagnosed, because he knows how difficult it can be.

“My husband and I are so proud of Tanner,” Andrea Barton said. “He is our hero. He has been dealt a ‘difficult hand’ in life, yet he refuses to succumb to this disease. He doesn’t let it define him.”

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Elizabeth Harty
9 years ago

Tanner Barton you’re amazing.

Tanner Barton
9 years ago

Thank you, Elizabeth! I appreciate the support 🙂

John McCormack
9 years ago

Morgan McCormack

9 years ago

tanner barton has always been an incredibly motivated person.glad i was able to be able to call him best friend at one point in the journey.

9 years ago
Reply to  steve

Wow! that’s a great motivation on my part as iam a victim.my spirit has been raised.

Anne Crew
9 years ago

Barb Campbell Rantz, thought of your unstoppable child…

Barb Campbell Rantz
9 years ago

I love this! Thank you Anne!!!!

Leigh Barton
Leigh Barton
9 years ago

I am so proud of you and your accomplishments Tanner! Keep living your dream and setting new goals for yourself. You are an inspiration to me and so many others! Thank you for being you and being such a wonderful part of our family! We love you! GO TEAM TANNER!

9 years ago

Swim, Tanner Swim!!!! So proud to know you, kiddo!

Judith Kuck
Judith Kuck
9 years ago

Tanner, I have always appreciated and admired you back in Grizzell Middle School. Your positive attitude and smile with “Hi Mrs. Kuck!” Always brightened my day, especially, because I was never fortunate enough to have you in class.
I know the many hours your Mom and Dad too spent taking care and encouraging you. They are certainly proud of the strong young man you have become.

Amyvan Brown
9 years ago


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