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12-year-old Indiana boy helping spread awareness for Crohn's disease by hitting the race track

Ty Arbogast has been racing his go-kart since he was 5 years old. Now, he advocates for Crohn's disease when circles the track.

NEW CASTLE, Ind — Just off the track at New Castle Motor Sports Park, Ty Arbogast and his dad give their go-kart a once over.

Once all the needed checks are through, Ty suits up and hops in. He's ready to race.

"I just like the thrill of going around the corners and racing people on passing," Ty said.

Ty is a 12-year-old from Avon and has been racing his go-kart on the track since he was 5 years old.

"I got interested in it from cars and Hot Wheels," he said.

He's hoping one day to turn his passion for racing into a pro career for Formula 1 or IndyCar. But that dream hit the brakes last year when Ty got sick.

"High fever, tired — that's when I started to notice that there was something wrong with me, that I had to go to the doctor," Ty said.

Ty's mom and dad, Shannon and Travis Arbogast, took Ty to doctors at Riley Children's Hospital for help.

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"It was pretty worrying because I had no idea what was wrong with me," Ty said.

At 11 years old, Ty was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. His doctors quickly connected him with treatments that have helped his health take a positive turn.

"Due to my medicine, I can do everything I want to do now," Ty said.

Now, feeling ready to hit the gas once again, Ty's working to advocate for those with Crohn's disease with every lap he takes. His jacket, helmet and go-kart show off "Racing With Crohn's," a foundation Ty and his family started to spread awareness for the disease with racing fans worldwide.

“A lot of people will see the sticker and ask," Ty said. "And so I explain to them what it is and how it affects me."

Ty's working to drive awareness every time he hits the track — hopeful one day he can advocate for those with Crohn's on the pro levels.

"The bigger the cars, the more people watching, the more it spreads, the more I can do with the foundation," he said.

Now 12 years old, Ty said he's feeling good, ready to put in the work to achieve that dream, and hopeful that he can help others with Crohn's feel comfortable crossing their own finish lines, too.

"There's no reason why you should be worried or discouraged about what you have," Ty said. "Because you're just, in the long run, just a normal human."

Click here to follow Racing with Crohn's on Facebook, and here to follow on Instagram.

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What is Crohn's disease?

Dr. Kathryn Harlow, Ty's gastroenterologist at Riley's Children's Health, described Crohn's as an inflammatory bowel disease. It's an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation in the intestinal tract. 

"Some symptoms of Crohn's disease include abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood in the stools, weight loss or poor growth, nausea and vomiting, and perianal disease (sores or bumps in the anal area)," Harlow said. "There may also be symptoms that affect other areas aside from the digestive tract, such as joint pain and swelling, unusual rashes, mouth sores, and fever, among others."

Harlow said while Crohn's disease is a chronic condition, there are treatment options out there that can help children and teens living with it to have a happy, healthy life. 

"We treat Crohn's with oral medications, with medicines that are given as an infusion (through an IV in the arm), and through medications that are given as injection, like Ty uses," Harlow said. "Along with giving medicines for Crohn's disease, GI doctors and registered dieticians care for the nutritional needs of children with this disease as well. Sometimes, a special diet or dietary supplements can actually be used to help the medicines treat the inflammation as well."

But the disease isn't just physical. Harlow said for kids dealing with chronic conditions like Crohn's, there can be an emotional toll that comes with learning to cope with the symptoms.

"Working with a GI psychologist can also help care for the mental and emotional health needs of kids with Crohn's disease," Harlow said. "At Riley Children's Health, we make it our goal to help treat children in a holistic way and support our patients and family's needs in navigating this diagnosis."

Harlow said seeing Ty speak up about Crohn's disease and working to educate others about it is setting an example to others. It shows them his condition doesn't define who he is.

"I think that Ty's willingness to share his experience with having Crohn's disease is really important in helping to remove the stigma of talking about digestive disease. It's also really awesome to see Ty getting back to doing the things he loves — like racing — and using it as a platform to help others," Harlow said.

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