Juvenile Diabetes Research foundation
May 17, 2013

Barnaby Howarth is a former AFL footballer with type 1 diabetes who survived a stroke following a gang attack in 2005. Despite this, he remains positive and knows that getting knocked down is no excuse to stop trying. He shares his story with us.

When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 14, I had no idea what it meant. I was a keen Aussie Rules footballer but I did not know if diabetes meant I would have to wrap myself in cotton wool. I did not like the sound of taking it easy, so I just closed my eyes and jumped back into my pre diabetes life and saw how far I could take it.

A few months after finishing high school, I got a call from the Sydney Swans asking me to play a season of AFL with them. I was so happy I was beside myself, I still had a Swans poster on my bedroom wall, but now I was one of them.

One of the most memorable parts of the season was when the Swans captain, Paul Kelly and Tony Plugger Lockett saw me have my insulin injection. I was sitting in front of my locker, thinking nobody was watching, so I pulled out my insulin pen and had an injection, but when I stood up Kelly and Plugger were standing in front of me and had seen the whole thing. Plugger just shook his head and said Bugger that, but Paul Kelly, who was voted the AFLs most courageous player three years in a row looked me dead in the eye and said Mate, you are a braver bloke than me.

In 2005 after I finished my year of AFL, I was knocked out in a late night gang attack and kicked in the head while I was lying on the ground unconscious. An artery in my brainstem was torn and I had a stroke that left me in a coma for four days. My parents were told they might have to turn off my life support, and my family and friends were told to come and say goodbye.

When I woke up I decided that rain falls on the just and unjust alike, but there comes a time when you just have to get over it and go and play in the puddles. Like I did after I was diagnosed with diabetes, I closed my eyes and jumped back into my pre adversity life.

In January 2012, I joined my sister and friend in climbing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, which proved to me that adversity should not stop you from doing anything. It might make things harder, but it should never stop you.