Oak Lawn teen meets challenges of being diabetic head-on
BY CHERYL DANGEL BARTOLINI Correspondent July 27, 2012 1:46PM
Jack Sheerin, a diabetic who has had to relearn how to live, from managing his diet to exercising, is a student at Brother Rice High School and poses with a monitor at the school in Chicago. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 31, 2012 6:00AM
The date when Jack Sheerin’s life changed forever is etched in his mind.
“I was diagnosed with diabetes freshman year on April 19,” the Oak Lawn teen said.
Although it’s a date he never will forget, the Brother Rice High School senior-to-be has learned to manage his condition while keeping up with his advanced placement classes and extracurricular activities.
“It was a huge change,” said Sheerin, 17. “I had to change a lot of my life patterns like eating and exercise. I had to be more careful with everything I did and consider every action and how it would affect my blood sugar.”
As a result, Sheerin has become something of an expert on diabetes and tracking his own blood-sugar level. For example, Sheerin, who loves to sail, has to manage his blood sugar very efficiently when he does.
“If I don’t, it could be life-threatening to me,” he said. “Doctors tell me I’m one of the best diabetics they’ve had, which is high praise for me because it has been so difficult.”
Sheerin said that while many are diagnosed with diabetes as youngsters, he “got it out of the blue. Most kids would get it when they are 4 or 5, but I got it in high school, so I had developed habits that I had to break.”
Realizing the importance of recordkeeping to his health, Sheerin broke his bad habits and took charge. Now he lives a typically active teen’s lifestyle.
Sheerin, in fact, last year became Brother Rice’s first athlete diagnosed with diabetes to play on the volleyball team, Brother Rice spokesman Brian Barkowski said.
Sheerin also volunteers at St. Linus Parish in Oak Lawn, where he helps run the summer camp and has been very involved in the youth group.
He also is a member of Students Against Destructive Decisions. During the summer, he works as a lifeguard at the Lawn Aqua Swim Club in Oak Lawn.
As a high school freshman, Sheerin attended Marist High School, also in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community, where he was a member of the literary club. But transferring to Brother Rice at the beginning of his sophomore year has proven to be the best decision he ever made, Sheerin said.
“Marist is a great school for some kids, but Brother Rice is a family for me. I enjoy every one of my teachers, and every day is a blessing,” he said. “Today, I’m good. It has taught me to appreciate life as a gift. You have to live life day by day.”
Sheerin said his parents, John and Margie Sheerin, of Oak Lawn, are his mentors.
“They are extremely proactive with me, in dealing with school, diabetes and social life. They like to keep involved and give me advice on things I have trouble with. They are the smartest people I have ever met,” he said.
He said his grandparents are pretty smart, too.
“My grandma, Eileen Barry, she is one of the kindest, most giving people I know,” Sheerin said. “And my grandparents, Janet and John Sheerin, always do what is best for me. I have a good relationship with them because I mow their lawn every week. When I was in the hospital they called me immediately and made sure I was OK.”
Next year, Sheerin plans to attend college and may go into law.
“My dad is an environmental lawyer and he likes to have discussions with me about different topics,” Sheerin said. “We have friendly debates about things, which has inspired me to think about law as a profession.”
With that kind of attitude, Sheerin isn’t about to let even his diabetes get him down.
“I don’t want to let my parents down and I want them to be proud of me,” he said. “I want to have a good future. I want to be the best that I can be.”