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First a Riley patient; Now at 25, athlete is a patient at IU Health Simon Cancer Center

IU Health Simon Cancer Center

First a Riley patient; Now at 25, athlete is a patient at IU Health Simon Cancer Center

At the age of three he became a patient at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. Now, this patient is in the care of an oncology team at IU Health Simon Cancer Center.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

Katrina Carmicle says there was nothing unusual about her pregnancy. And when her firstborn son entered the world on August 22, 1995 she decided no matter what came her way she would encourage her son to focus on his abilities.

That is just what Dakota “Cody” Carmicle has done for the past 25 years.

At the age of three he became a patient of Riley Hospital’s Dr. Daniel Neely who specializes in pediatric ophthalmology. Months after his birth Carmicle was diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia, a congenital condition where the optic nerve is underdeveloped. He had multiple surgeries and is blind in his left eye.

A resident of Colburn, Ind. in Tippecanoe County, Carmicle enrolled in the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Beginning in elementary school, Carmicle enjoyed shooting hoops. He continued playing basketball recreationally until graduation in 2014.

“My parents never let me use my sight as an excuse to not work to the best of my ability - not just in sports but in school and everything in life,” said Carmicle. He has almost no sight in his left eye and less than 20 percent of his visual field in his right eye. He reads using large print and practices what he can do rather than what he can’t do, including playing disc golf and video games with his dad, Nick and younger brother, Brice.

It hasn’t been without challenges.

After high school graduation he enrolled in Ivy Tech but had to drop his classes when he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome. The condition occurs when blood vessels or nerves between the collarbone and first rib are compressed. The result is shoulder and neck pain and numbness in the fingers. In 2015 he underwent surgery to correct the compression. After his recovery Carmicle developed a new passion – playing Goalball. He first learned about the sport from a high school coach and decided to give it a serious try. The sport, specifically developed for athletes with vision impairment, involves teams of three. The competition involves rolling a three-pound ball on the floor in a bowling motion. Points are scored when the ball crosses the opposing team’s goal line. The game consists of two 10-minute halves where the team members focus on protecting their goal – about the width of a volleyball court. The ball has bells that alert players to its approach.

The game was originally introduced in 1946 as a rehabilitation activity for WW II veterans. It grew in popularity after being introduced at the 1976 Paralympic Games showcasing both men’s and women’s teams.

In no time, Carmicle was recognized as one of the top athletes. He joined other outstanding athletes at Fort Wayne’s Turnstone Center for Children and Adults with Disabilities. In 2018 the US Olympic Committee named the center as the seventh US Paralympic Training Site and home to the Goalball Center for Excellence. The athleticism of Carmicle’s youth paid off. He was on his way to the next chapter in his adult life – traveling the world as a member of the US Men’s Goalball team. He’s represented Team USA at numerous international tournaments including the Malmo Intercup in Sweden, the International Trakai Goalball Tournament in Lithuania, and the International Goalball Challenge in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

“We always got to explore the cities. Denmark was a lot of fun because there’s a rail line from Sweden to Denmark that takes you over the ocean for about 20 minutes,” said Carmicle. “My favorite city ever is Vancouver, British Columbia. We went up in the space needle and there were just a lot of fun things to do.” The sport has also introduced him to new friends including his best friend and teammate Calahan Young.

Carmicle’s life was full and then he met another challenge.

He experience pain in the right portion of his chest. At first he thought it might be caused by the training. A lot of Goalball requires twisting his body and throwing the ball with force. He gave in and went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with pneumonia. The pain in his chest continued. In July scans showed a mass in his lung up to his neck. Carmicle was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a cancer that grows in the bones and soft tissue around the bones.

In the care of IU Health Dr. Daniel Rushing, Carmicle is undergoing chemotherapy at IU Health Simon Cancer Center.

“I’m pretty drained right now, but we’re seeing progress,” said Carmicle. “I’m looking forward and hoping for the best.”

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