Fatigued by Obstacles
Sports

Fatigued by Obstacles

By Jacob Williams

A three-sport athlete should be able to hustle to the lunch line or run up the stairs without getting winded, so when junior Cooper Bratton felt out of breath, he knew something was wrong.

At the age of 2, Cooper was transported by a LifeLine helicopter to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis for his severe asthma. However, this would not be his last visit. 

Cooper, now a 16-year-old junior, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease this year, sending him back to Riley.

“I was definitely scared about everything, but the more the doctors and nurses talked to me, I knew that you could obviously not beat it but there is a bright side to it,” Cooper said.

Crohn’s disease is in the same group as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which causes chronic inflammation in the digestive tract. In addition to abdominal pain and diarrhea, another major effect of Crohn’s often is fatigue.

Cooper got diagnosed early on, but it has gotten worse.

During the summer, Cooper became concerned when he had bloody stools, so doctors scheduled a colonoscopy. His mother, Lynde Bratton, remembers the reaction she had when she heard of his Crohn’s diagnosis.

“I think like any mom, I was shocked and sad,” Mrs. Bratton said. “I knew this was lifelong and life-changing.” 

As someone with Crohn’s disease, Cooper has to visit the hospital to get an IV infusion depending how well he is managing. For others with the same diagnosis it might be every other week if symptoms are worse or every seven weeks if you are in remission.

“He has had eight infusions since the first week of August,” Mrs. Bratton said. “He had a second colonoscopy in December and he has met with the doctor three different times.”

Since Cooper goes to the hospital every other week, he has often missed school and important events. He has even struggled with his symptoms during school and sporting events.  The doctors have changed his medicines to try to find a plan that works better for him.

Cooper plays varsity golf, slot wide receiver in football, and point guard in basketball. In a junior varsity basketball game against New Palestine in early January, Cooper wasn’t spending halftime talking strategy with the team. Instead, he was stuck in the locker room throwing up.

Basketball player
Cooper Bratton plays guard for the JV basketball team and also sometimes plays in varsity games. (Photo Provided)

“Then he played the whole (second) half and gave it his all,” Mrs. Bratton said.  “His dad and I always say he is so much stronger than us. I truly believe he will use this to help others one day.  Right now we are doing everything to get him in remission and back to the ‘old Cooper’!” 

As the point guard, you want to be the most conditioned player on the court, but Crohn’s disease makes it much harder to play.

“Just a couple minutes in the game and you’re already exhausted, but you don’t really want to show it because you don’t want to come out,” Cooper said. “Just trying to just tell my mind that I can do it even though my body is obviously exhausted.”

Basketball is hard because there is constant movement up and down the court, whereas football is easier on Cooper’s body because he gets to take a break in between plays. During the football season when Cooper heard of the diagnosis, head coach Chris Overholt was there to help.

“He has had such a positive attitude that makes you want to help him,” Overholt said.

Football huddle
Cooper Bratton (5) huddles with his teammates during a home football game this fall. (Photo Provided)

Rather than Overholt being the one to help him, Cooper actually helps the teams he is a part of. His attitude and energy provide the teams with motivation to keep going.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are playing dominos or football or basketball, Cooper wants to win and Cooper wants to tell you that he’s won,” Overholt said. “I love having guys like that on my team that just have that kind of confidence, I think that is contagious to other people, and it is good to have a few of those guys on your team.”

The football team won the sectional title this fall.  Cooper also is on the varsity basketball roster and was part of another sectional title on March 2.  The Eagles will play in the regional on March 9. 

When basketball ends, Cooper swings into golf season. 

Cooper has played varsity golf for two years, starting in his freshman year. Golf for Cooper is a relaxing sport to play but yet it still has a main challenge like most sports.

Cooper said that golf is a “very mental sport” because he doesn’t have to run sprints or do hard exercises for practice.

“One shot can be awful but you have to clear your mind and have a ‘next shot mentally’ so don’t worry about the last shot you hit,” he said. “Instead worry about the next shot you’re about to hit.”

He is not sure what effect Crohn’s will have on his golf game.  He hasn’t played on the golf team yet since his diagnosis.

While sports might be rough on him, he still looks forward to each season.

“I’m excited to just play with the guys,” Cooper said. “(The golf team is) kind of a young group, but I’m excited for this season.” 

Goofing golfers
Cooper Bratton (middle) clowns around with golf teammates Riley Bratton (left) and Jake Bilby. Riley is his older brother. (Photo Provided)

No one knows the future of his Crohn’s disease, but there is no total cure. Sometimes patients improve over time while other times the disease gets worse. 

Cooper can use lessons he’s learned from sports to help him adapt to Crohn’s.

 “You definitely have to have the motivation to fight through,” he said. “It’s in your body — it doesn’t go away, it’s always going to be with you — so you always have to push through it.”

 

March 5, 2024

About Author

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Jacob Williams Jacob Williams is a sophomore at Delta High School. He is a multi-sport athlete who likes to play baseball and tennis. You will never see this kid have a frown but he will always have a crown (king).


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