Still Achieving

Photography by Ian Barnes

Ian Barnes appeared in M&B as a fitness standout who survived Crohn’s disease. Then he received another terrifying medical diagnosis. Once again, his spirit beat the odds.

Last December, we featured college student Ian Barnes in our Achiever column. Ian is impressive not only for his physique, but also his drive to be healthy and physically fit under extremely difficult circumstances: He has been living with a severe case of Crohn’s disease since he was 10 years old — a disease that nearly killed him. With the love and support of his family, he fought back and took control of this debilitating condition.

Just when things were looking up, Ian received another frightening diagnosis that launched him on a sudden trip to Los Angeles that became the journey of a lifetime.

We don’t usually meet our Achievers in person, but Ian and his mother, Beth, visited our offices here in L.A. on that trip last January. Their kindness and gratitude made a huge impression on all of us, and we vowed to run a follow-up article on his journey to stay healthy no matter the obstacles that come his way. At only 20 years old, he continues to prove to himself and those around him that no challenge is too great, and that an important part of achieving great things is giving back. Here’s Ian’s inspiring story.

A Whirlwind Year

Following the release of last December’s Muscle & Body Achiever article, I have experienced a plethora of highs and lows. IG Living! magazine named me one of the most inspirational people of my generation. I have spoken at my alma mater, Champion High School, about overcoming adversity, and began creating diet plans and exercise routines for people living with Crohn’s disease who seek my advice. I also became a consultant for Crohn’sAdvocate magazine, and will be in their February 2013 issue on fitness.

However, just I was doing what I always aspired to do — helping people with the difficulties associated with Crohn’s disease — my life took another traumatic turn.

I was diagnosed with a rare degenerative eye disease of the cornea called keratoconus, which causes the collagen of the cornea to protrude out.

Doctors told me I would become progressively blind, and that my corneas would deteriorate to the point where I would need a cornea transplant. With my vision already beginning to falter, I was faced with another daunting diagnosis that tested my faith.

Immediately, my parents began researching for alternative options, and found Brian Boxer Wachler, MD, who had patented procedures to not only stop the progression of the disease, but also recover some of the lost sight.

Despite the welcoming news, the procedures are not approved by the FDA, so are not covered by insurance. Desperate for of a way to somehow have the surgeries, my mother wrote a letter to Dr. Wachler in hopes of working out a way to save my sight. Thankfully, I received a phone call that would forever change my life: It was the producer from the CBS Emmy-nominated TV show “The Doctors,” who presented me with an incredible opportunity. She said I’d be able to get the procedures done to save my sight, have it filmed for their TV show, and make an appearance at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles in front of a live studio audience. My mother and I took the next flight out to Los Angeles.

Upon touching down in L.A., we went to Dr. Wachler’s office for the necessary pre-surgery examination, as my surgeries were scheduled for the very next day. Immediately post-op, I noticed improvements in my vision — I could hardly believe it! Next up was filming my segment of “The Doctors.” Admittedly, I was nervous to make my Hollywood debut, but what an amazing part of this journey.

Next, I tested my eyes out on the sights of California, visiting sunny Santa Monica and Venice Beach. The views were breathtaking. I was finally seeing life the way it was meant to be seen. As if my trip of a lifetime could not get any better, my mother and I then visited the headquarters of Muscle & Body, where we met the charming editors and creative director of the magazine. By the end of my California adventure, I had gone from becoming progressively blind to having 20/30 vision.

When I returned to college, I was two weeks behind on my schoolwork and only 185 lb. I’m happy to say that I finished the semester with a 3.82 GPA and returned to my weight-training regimen. I am currently at 205 lb with a max bench press of 325 lb and continue to grow despite Crohn’s disease. I have even received some interest from supplement companies about getting sponsored, and I am excited to see where my life in the world of fitness takes me.

So much has happened since that first M&B article. My goal now is to help others through difficult times. Anyone can contact me by email ( or on the web ( I’m happy to offer advice in any way possible.

My hope is that through continuing to work hard, I will inspire others to challenge boundaries. I have been told multiple times that I could have died or gone blind from diseases. Although often times the odds have not been in my favor, with the right mind-set and a strong work ethic, I will never allow anything to hold me back from advancing toward my goals of improving myself each day while trying to help others.

Lastly, I want to thank Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler and his staff for saving my sight and being extremely nice and supportive throughout the whole process.

  • Evie Coe

    Ian, you are amazing and your dedication and caring ways will always open doors for you… keep on keeping on, the world is awaiting you….. Sincerely, Evie Coe

  • Jon Sanger

    Atta boy ian! glad i get to lift with you

  • Jeremy

    This guy is a straight up bro. Stay strong dude.