Prevention programs, screenings, and other health information

LCMH Experts Help Cancer Patient Defy the Odds

Donnell Hall, a 52-year-old area resident, had no family history of disease when he received a very rare cancer diagnosis in early 2016.  The otherwise healthy former college basketball player and print shop owner is the “glue” of his family. Their world was shaken when diagnosis was delivered.

In late 2015, Hall had been experiencing difficulty swallowing and catching his breath. He made an appointment with his primary care provider who performed a series of initial tests, then referred Hall to an academic medical center in Chicago where his greatest fear was confirmed. Malignant Metastatic Paraganglioma: Three words that neither Donnell nor his healthcare team had heard before.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), malignant paraganglioma is extremely rare — in 2002, the estimated incidence in the United States was 93 cases per 400 million people. Diagnosis is a challenge, so in up to about 10 percent of cases — including Hall’s — metastases are already present at diagnosis. If left untreated, the prognosis is poor.

After a two-week hospital stay, providers at the medical center informed Hall that he may not have much time left, and began to discuss hospice and palliative care options.

“This was the most difficult conversation I ever had in my life,” said Hall. “I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I was not ready. As far as I was concerned, my fight had just begun and I was determined to fight for my life.”

It was at this time that Hall’s primary care provider referred him to M. Bassel Atassi, M.D., hematologist/oncologist and internal medicine physician at Little Company of Mary Hoapital (LCMH), who was willing and ready to lead Hall in his fight.

“Dr. Atassi wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” said Hall. “He is my guardian angel and the reason I am here today.”

Because this rare form of cancer was new to Dr. Atassi, Hall’s treatments were determined one appointment at a time. It was found that the cancer originated in Donnell’s chest. Over the course of a year, Donnell underwent local radiation to the main cancer mass, targeted radiation liver-directed Radioembolization treatments, and chemotherapy treatments. In April, CT and PET scans showed that the metastasis is shrinking with no new growths.

In addition to Dr. Atassi, members of Hall’s healthcare team at LCMH include Julia Choo, M.D., radiation oncologist; Don Martinez, M.D., interventional radiologist; and Hamid Nazeer, D.O., interventional radiologist.

“I truly accredit our entire team for Donnell’s success story,” said Dr. Atassi. “None of us ever had encountered a patient with this type of cancer, but we all came together as collaborating physicians to create a customized treatment plan and ultimately save Donnell’s life.”

Today, Hall is grateful just to be alive. During treatment, he made the decision to close his print shop which has helped him to slow down and enjoy life. In spring, Hall and his family celebrated his overcoming cancer by going on a cruise.

“Before this diagnosis, I was one busy man… constantly on-the-go and rushing through life. Now, I just live life as I can. I take time to hear the birds,” said Hall. “The personalized care that I have received at the Cancer Center at LCMH has been indescribable and every person I have encountered has made me feel special and important. Little Company of Mary is like family to me. I am most grateful to my entire healthcare team, but especially to Dr. Atassi. He saved my life.”

To learn more about cancer care at Little Company of Mary Hospital, visit To make an appointment at the Cancer Center, call 708-229-6020.



Business Spotlight: Health Advocates, Home Caregiving Services

By Kristin Boza

As an elderly family member ages, mental and physical changes can come on rapidly. Many senior citizens and their families want to do everything possible to avoid an assisted living or nursing home scenario –not only are those facilities expensive, but it takes some sense of self away from the senior citizen. With the aid of Health Advocates, families can hire experienced caregivers to provide housekeeping, meal preparation, rides to a doctor’s appointment, bathing and medication reminders so that the elderly person can still live and thrive in their own home. Health Advocates is active in caring for Beverly/Morgan Park residents, and many of the caregivers employed by them reside in the neighborhood as well.

“We help people keep their elderly family member at home, and our services take the stress off of the family,” said Colleen Hassell, community outreach coordinator for Health Advocates. “My boss [Health Advocates President/CEO Raj Ismail] says we’re out there to help people to save lives and save relationships.”

Hassell said it’s a sensitive issue for families to see their older family member age and become unable to do the things they once could. The elderly took care of the younger family members in years past, but it’s not always easy for the younger generation, often caring for their own young families and working full-time, to also care for an aging parent. The caregivers at Health Advocates are able to help the younger generation take the turn of caring for the older.

“Our caregivers are there to help do whatever they can to make the family and the patient comfortable to that no one feels that they must transfer their parents to a retirement home or nursing home,” Hassell said. “Some of our caregivers have even gone on vacations with our clients to provide additional assistance to the family when they’re traveling.”

Besides in-home care, Health Advocates goes into retirement facilities to provide additional assistance to the residents. “We also offer a Gentle Flow Fitness Program, which is a seated yoga program,” Hassell said. “We have a yoga instructor who is also a caregiver; she has everyone sit in their seats and she shows them different ways to stretch and get the blood circulating in their bodies. We offer this service free of charge to the facilities as our way of giving back.”

One thing Health Advocates’ caregivers cannot do is give medication. However, a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) caregiver can remind their clients that it’s time to take their prescribed medications. When a family is in need of a caregiver, Health Advocates will send a nurse to the home to assess the care that’s needed. The nurse will then work with a coordinator to determine which caregiver would be best-suited for that client’s needs.

“Many of our clients are on a lot of medication; it can get confusing to remember when to take which medicine. It’s nice to know that you can leave your house and have someone there to tell your loved one when to take it,” Hassell said.

Giving back to the community, Health Advocates has donated reusable water bottles for the Ridge Run goody bags for the last two years. Health Advocates also recruits its clients to help give back. “We have a Crafting Caring Hands group that is comprised of a group of seniors who use donated yarn to create hats, shawls and blankets that we donate to children’s hospitals and cancer treatment facilities. Last year, we donated over 2,000 handmade items,” Hassell said.

“You want to be there for your loved one, but you can’t all the time. It’s nice to know that there’s someone who cares as much as you do to take care of your parents’ needs,” Hassell said.

To find out more about Health Advocates, visit

Ward-Wide Programs Promote Healthy Summer Activities

Local organizations are coming together to make sure people in the 19th Ward have a healthy summer. Free activities range from programs and seminars to training and healthy cooking demonstrations.

Partnering to sponsor the programs are 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea, State Sen. Bill Cunningham, State Rep. Fran Hurley, BAPA, Smith Village, Humana, Sports & Ortho Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, MetroSouth Medical Center, TreadFit, Southtown Health Foods, JenCare Senior Medical Center, ATI Physical Therapy, Southside Knockout and Fit Code.

The Healthy Summer Campaign schedule includes: and Running Excels Running Club, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6 p.m., and Saturdays, 7 a.m., Running Excels, 10328 S. Western; Preventing & Treating Diabetes, Sat., June 3, 2 p.m., MetroSouth Health Center, 11250 S. Western; Strength Training for Runners, Sun., June 4, Cosme Park, 9201 S. Longwood Dr. (bring yoga mat); Self-Defense Seminar, Thurs., June 8, 6 p.m., Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, 3857 W. 111th St.; Strength Training for Runners, Sun., June 11, 9 a.m., Barnard Park, 10431 S. Longwood Dr.; Senior Citizen Chair Yoga, Thurs., June 15, 1 p.m., 19th Ward Office, 10402 S. Western; Tabata in the Park, Sun., June 18, McKiernan Park, 10714 S. Sawyer; Senior Citizen Health Fair, Mon., June 19, 10 a.m., Mount Greenwood Park, 3721 W. 111th St.; Women’s Self-Defense Class,  Mon., June 19, 6 p.m., St. Xavier University Shannon Center, 3700 W. 103rd St.; Managing Stress and Energy With Nutrition, Tues., June 20, 7 p.m., Southtown Health Foods, 2100 W. 95th St.; Strength Training for Runners,. Fri., June 23, 9 a.m., Beverly Park, 2460 W. 103rd St.; Metabolic Core Conditioning, Sun., June 25, 9 a.m., Prospect Park, 10940 S. Prospect Ave.; and Healthy Cooking with Chef Gautham Rao, Tues., June 27, 7 p.m., Smith Village, 2340 W. 113th Pl. Find schedule in the 19th Ward Quarterly

Free smoothies will be provided to participants at outdoor sessions courtesy of Southtown Health Foods and BAPA. Additional information available at

Ridge Run is CARA Circuit Race

BAPA’s Ridge Run has been selected as one of the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) 2017 Runners’ Choice Circuit races. The CARA Runners’ Choice Circuit is a series of running events intended to create a competitive structure for local runners.

“The Circuit brings the best of local running together, both races and runners alike,” said Greg Hipp, CARA’s Director of Road Race Services and Events. ”More than just a collection of races, the Circuit is a community of runners who love to challenge themselves through competition and personal improvement.”

Circuit races are chosen annually by CARA’s Race Committee through input of CARA’s membership, race participants, CARA staff and CARA’s Board of Directors. This circuit includes many of Chicagoland’s most well organized and well-appreciated races.

For the complete schedule and for more information on the CARA Runners’ Choice Circuit go to

Founded in 1978, CARA is a non-profit organization dedicated to running advocacy in Chicagoland. It is the largest running organization in the Midwest and the third largest in the nation. Info: or 312-666-9836.

Kennedy Park Advisory Council Raising Money for Pool Chairs

By Kristin Boza

With pool season only a few short months away, the Kennedy Park Advisory Council (KPAC) is looking toward summer and working hard to improve the Kennedy Park pool experience for everyone in the neighborhood. The KPAC, formed in Sept. 2016 and led by president Carly Carney, is engaged in a fundraising effort to purchase new deck and lounge chairs and a sun sail for shade to create a more relaxing environment for pool patrons.

“Since the new heating system was installed several years ago, Kennedy Park has really become this summer oasis for neighborhood families, seniors and adults,” Carney said. “Often, there aren’t enough chairs and the ones that have been supplied by the park district have deteriorated over the years. It always weighed on my heart to see a mom with a little one that didn’t have a place to sit, or a senior citizen in an unstable chair.”

The KPAC aims to raise enough money to purchase 20 deck chairs and 20 lounge chairs. To combat the issue of no shade on the pool deck, they hope to also purchase a sun sail to give swimmers the opportunity to rest in the shade when they’re not enjoying the water.

Carney praises the Chicago Park District for their efforts in listening to residents and making much-needed changes. They extended the pool hours for lap swimmers and family swim times, and they chose Kennedy Park to be part of an initiative to extend the pool season into September.

“If the Chicago Park District is willing to work with us, then it is the right thing to do to work within their constraints,” Carney said. “It feels like a joint partnership with Eric Fischer, head of aquatics, and Ed Affolter, regional manager.”

While budget limitations prohibit the park district from purchasing the chairs themselves, Carney and the rest of the KPAC are motivated to solve the problem. “By solving this problem, it actually enhances this neighborhood resource and will make it even more friendly and comfortable to those who use the pool,” she said.

95th Street Business Association president Erin Ross helped the KPAC set up the fundraiser so that those who donate are eligible for a tax deduction. To donate, visit Kennedy Park Pool and Advisory Council on Facebook for a link to their GoFundMe page.

“The fundraising initiative is really an extended effort of how small changes can be made if we support one another,” Carney said. “The more neighborhood families use the pool, the more of a gathering place it becomes for our community.”



Anita Snow is 2017 Ridge Run Race Director

Neighborhood resident and event management specialist Anita Snow has signed as Race Director for BAPA’s 40th Annual Ridge Run.

“I am truly honored and excited to be the Race Director this year,” Snow said. “The Ridge Run is one of the many ways we can showcase all the amazing people and homes we have in this neighborhood.”

Snow has 20 years of experience in planning and presenting special events with a focus on races. She has worked in many different capacities with the Bank of America Chicago Marathon for 20 years. Other race clients include Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle; Chicago Polar Dash Half Marathon, 10K and 5K; Chicago Monster Dash Half Marathon and 5K;
Get Lucky Chicago; Midway Fly Away 5K; Running for Hope; Nike, Teach for America 5K; and Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Snow has been a member of the Ridge Run Committee, providing important expertise to making the race run smoothly.

Snow and her husband Dwight have lived in the neighborhood for over 20 years. They have two children who attend St. Barnabas School. Snow is actively involved in St Barnabas, working on the Finance Board and serving as FSA Treasurer and girls volleyball coach.

The Ridge Run and Beverly/Morgan Park/Mount Greenwood Memorial Day Parade take place on Memorial Day, Mon., May 29. Ridge Run registration for the 10K, 5K and Youth Mile races is open at Neighbors interested in learning more about the race or Memorial Day Parade, or becoming an event  volunteer can email

Mercy Circle Welcomes Residents from All Walks of Life

Since August, Mercy Circle, 3659 W. 99th St., the area’s newest continuing care retirement community, has welcomed almost a dozen new residents including nine laypeople, seeking the company of older adults who share their beliefs, lifestyles and interests. Mercy Circle, opened in 2013 by the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest, previously admitted only members of religious orders and those affiliated with them, as well as priests and ministers. That admission restriction has been lifted.

“We quickly learned many people, especially our neighbors in the 19th Ward and in Evergreen Park, were interested in being part of our community,” said Frances Lachowicz, executive director of Mercy Circle. “Our first residents have been members of religious orders and priests, who have devoted their lives to the service of others. They were enthusiastic about becoming an inclusive community.”

According to Lachowicz, as laypeople move into Mercy Circle, Sisters of Mercy and new residents are discovering all sorts of relationships and reunions. For instance, one new resident was reunited with the Sister who taught her daughter at St. Catherine of Genoa parish school in Roseland. “Everyone is enjoying these kinds of reunions,” Lachowicz said.

Mercy Circle may be the only faith-based community in the southwest Chicago area, but the attraction for incoming residents goes beyond that attribute. The not-for-profit has a no-entrance-fee policy along with a five-star CMS rating.

Marge Everett, senior living advisor, lists other important items for prospective residents: “Visitors tell me they appreciate our spacious apartments and our comfortable, beautifully-designed building with gardens and landscapes. Of course, our high-quality healthcare services are of primary importance.”

As part of the Beverly/Morgan Park and Mt. Greenwood area, location is another plus. “When I first got here, I ran into two people I had not seen since grade school,” said Sister Alice Feehan, who grew up in the area and was principal for Little Flower parish school for years and then development officer at Mother McAuley High School. “We picked up right where we left off. Laypeople fit right in because everybody who enters Mercy Circle becomes friends.”

Welcoming older adults from all walks of life, Mercy Circle offers residences at all levels of care, along with thoughtful amenities, life enrichment programs and social and friendship opportunities. The senior living community provides a variety of dining options. In addition to engaging activities, sharing interests and services are designed specifically for each setting. For more information or to schedule a private appointment, call 773-253-3600.



Start the Year with a Plan for Fitness

If you’ve made the resolution to get – or stay – fit this year, there are a lot of neighborhood places where you can make that happen. How do you decide which place has what you’re looking for? Many offer a first class at no or low cost, so trying several would be great. Here’s some insight on where you can start.

Beverly Yoga Center, 1917 W.  103rd St., offers classes for those who are new to yoga, as well as people who are looking for a class to completely relax or to develop strength and flexibility. Learn to meditate classes are also on the schedule. The open and airy sun lit space is a welcoming place to feel at home to practice yoga, breathe and be kind to your body.  Email: Phone: 773-239-9642. Website:

Barre it All, 3203 W. 111th St., offers a signature class that uses a barre with a combination of postures inspired by ballet and other disciplines like yoga and pilates to achieve long, lean muscles.. Email: Phone: 773-727-8216. Website:

Treadfit, 10458 S Western, is the only workout of its kind in the neighborhood, combining cardio and strength to torch fat, increase endurance, and build muscle, while utilizing heart rate monitors to track calorie burn and heart rate zones. Clients on average will burn between 400-800 calories per class. Phone: 312-206-6090. Website:

Running Excels, 10328 S. Western, offers free running groups that meet Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 pm., and Saturdays at 7 a.m. New this year they are using the Strava app which keeps track of how many times anyone runs the Running Excels training route.  Once the participant reach 25 times, the walker or runner will receive a free t-shirt. Other items will be earned once it is done 50 times and 75 times, and a party will be thrown when participants reach 100 times. The route can be found on the website. Email: Phone: 773-629-8587. Website:

‘Never Go Without’ Serves Women in Need

By Kristin Boza

During the holiday season, it’s easy to find a food, toy or clothing drive to donate new or used items to. It’s also easy to forget that essential items, especially feminine care products, are in dire need year-round. That’s one reason why Beverly/Morgan Park native Jesseca Rhymes founded Never Go Without, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to filling the gap and ensuring every woman and girl can take care of her personal hygiene each month.

“I started Never Go Without to combine my love for fun and service,” Rhymes said. “In honor of my 24th birthday, I hosted my first feminine care product drive. I promoted the drive, picked up donations and shopped for products every night for about a month.”

At her birthday party, friends and family brought donations. Rhymes is eager to make this an annual event. To date, Rhymes and her mother, Lynette, have been able to donate over 23,000 incontinence supplies, pads, tampons, pantiliners and wipes to Chicago-area women in need.

The biggest recipient of Never Go Without’s donations is Deborah’s Place, the oldest and largest provider of housing for women experiencing homelessness in Chicago. “Deborah’s Place is always in need of incontinence supplies,” Rhymes said. “This makes perfect sense because a period lasts maybe 10 days at the most, but when a woman is dealing with incontinence issues, that is a daily struggle.”

Product donations can be dropped off or mailed to DJ’s Bike Doctor in Hyde Park. However, there are a couple other ways to donate that can stretch the dollar and even benefit the giver.

“We are involved with a company called Aunt Flow, which is a one-to-one purchasing program,” Rhymes said. “For every box of tampons or pads you purchase for yourself, you can choose to donate a box to Never Go Without.” Users can sign up for a monthly delivery to receive tampons or pads, and can even customize the box based on their individual flow needs. In turn, Aunt Flow will donate the same box to Never Go Without. Sign up at

Alternatively, monetary donations are accepted through their website at “We shop very frugally and coupon in order to make our donation dollars stretch,” Rhymes said.

Rhymes’ next goal is to spread the word across the Chicago area via social media with the hashtag #likesharefollowdonate. “We always need people to share what we are doing via Facebook and Instagram. Half the battle is making sure people know and understand this is a real need,” she said.

“I cannot imagine dealing with my period and not having the proper supplies. It is unacceptable that there are women who do it every month,” Rhymes said. “This is a simple need that is way too often overlooked, and I just want to shine more light on the issue.”

Looking forward, Rhymes is gearing up for their annual event next year and is seeking sponsorship and partners to make the event bigger and better, she said. “We are small but mighty. We are still finding the right path for us, but no matter where we go or what we do, we are going to keep making sure we get feminine care products to more women in need,” Rhymes said.

To find out how you can help, email Jesseca Rhymes at

Local Kids Bring Awareness to Type 1 Diabetes

By Kristin Boza

This is the story of two boys named Sean. From the outside, they’re pretty typical: focused students, energetic athletes and loyal brothers to their respective siblings.

Yet on the inside, their bodies are at odds with themselves. Both boys were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, coincidentally on the same day a few years apart. This means that their bodies don’t produce insulin, which is essential in order for the body to transport glucose to its cells. With constant monitoring and management, Sean McKee and Sean Healy are able to thrive and bring awareness of the disease to others in hopes that one day a cure will be found.

Sean McKee


At 10 years old, Christ the King 5th grader Sean McKee has lived with type 1 diabetes for seven years. When he was three, Sean had H1N1, the very serious flu virus that went around in 2009. “He had the flu in October, but by late November he still was recovering,” said Sean’s mom, Julie McKee. “We took him to the pediatrician and they told us to just hang in there and that he would turn the corner.”

In hindsight, it was clear that Sean’s extensive recovery period from the flu was actually the early signs of type 1 diabetes. “He was frequently urinating, really thirsty, very irritable and I was just worried about him,” McKee said. “We couldn’t put a finger on it, but he just wasn’t himself. He also was very hungry; one night he got out of bed in the middle of the night to eat a banana.”

On Dec. 9, 2009 the family was decorating their Christmas tree. “Sean became obsessed with our new refrigerator’s water filter. I finally had to put a lock on it because he kept getting water. But a few minutes later, I found him laying across the sink in our bathroom, drinking from the faucet. I knew something was very wrong at that point,” McKee said.

The McKees called a family friend/paramedic who saw the signs and immediately tested Sean’s blood sugar. He advised that they head to the ER right away. “Sean was in DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) and was soon admitted to the ICU. We were very lucky; with prompt treatment, everything was resolved pretty quickly for him. Not every story you hear has that happy ending, so we’re very grateful.” DKA occurs when ketones build up in the body, and ketones are formed when the body burns fat instead of sugar/glucose.

“Even though we had a feeling that something was wrong with Sean, I couldn’t have imagined this. It was so strange, we were upset but had a small feeling of relief that we had an answer and we were going to be okay and treat it effectively,” McKee said.

Over the last seven years, the McKees have managed Sean’s diagnosis with a combination of careful planning and constant monitoring. “We still have a happy life with lots of joy in our home, but the biggest change is that we can’t be spontaneous in the same way as before,” McKee said. “You can’t leave your house without supplies, including insulin and extra supplies for his pump, and lots of snacks. There’s no room for error at all, and that weighs on you.” The family also relies on meal planning and maintaining regular meal times in order to keep Sean’s blood sugar properly regulated.

Sean wears two medical devices attached to his body at all times: an insulin pump and a glucose sensor. Despite the glucose sensor, Sean still needs to test his blood sugar with a needle prick several times a day to ensure he’s staying on top of any changes.

Sean is very active and plays a variety of sports, and his teams require that a parent be at every practice and game in order to monitor him. “We adjust his insulin and check sugar levels and make sure he’s properly hydrated and fed [during sports],” McKee said. “It’s a different routine than you would have for your average kid, but he’s able to play and he’s not missing out on anything in life, which is so important to us.”

In August, Sean received a diabetic alert dog named Ray from the Ron and Vicki Santo Foundation. Although Sean does wear the glucose sensor and his parents get a live feed to their phones from it, there is a delay in detection. But Sean’s sugars tend to drop very quickly, which can lead to a very dangerous situation. “We thought about getting a service dog for a long time,” McKee said.  “But the costs associated with the training were impossible for our family.” Expenses can be up to $18,000.

McKee filled out an application with the Ron and Vicki Santo Foundation and soon received a call from Vicki. They thought Sean was a perfect candidate for the program. The Foundation provided most of the expenses and Ray was trained for a year in Colorado.

An integral piece of Ray’s training was capturing Sean’s specific scent when his blood sugar is low. “We’d send in shirts that Sean wore when he was low, and we had to put his blood and saliva all over the shirt. I would overnight it packed in dry ice to Colorado so the dog could learn his scent,” McKee said.

Ray arrived at the McKee house with his trainer, who spent five days with the family to help them get to know one another and teach them the commands. When Ray senses a change in Sean’s sugar levels, he gets excited. “Sean will ask him ‘what?’ and Ray will let out a bark. Although he’s not trained to detect sugar highs, he has caught a few, and he’s been very consistent with the lows,” McKee said. “He’s really amazing.”

Ray, Sean, Julie and her husband Luke, and sons Luke and Timmy were all featured in a recent Comcast SportsNet Chicago segment. Sean told the story of his time on the football field; it was a windy day and the wind caught his breath and Ray smelled it, barking from the sidelines. Sean’s sugar tested really high at that time. Sean also had the honor of throwing out the first pitch at a Cubs game — and Ray was there too.

While Ray isn’t allowed to accompany Sean to school, the chocolate lab has been a lifesaver during sports, at home and while out in the community. “We’re getting used to going out in public with a dog, it’s really been a great whirlwind,” McKee said.

Sean Healy

Similar to Sean McKee’s story, Sean Healy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when his parents, Becky and Dan, noticed he was out of sorts, drinking and eating ravenously, and going to the bathroom every five minutes. “Looking back, he was probably sick for a while leading up to his diagnosis, but he had none of the illnesses (such as the flu) prior to that that usually trigger type 1 diabetes,” said Becky Healy. “He was admitted to the ER directly from his pediatrician’s office the morning I brought him in.”

Sean was six when he was first diagnosed, and now the 11-year-old Sutherland 6th grader has learned to not let his diagnosis slow him down.  “When he was first diagnosed I thought I would just follow the ‘rules’ of what he should eat and how much insulin I should give him, and everything would be fine,” Healy said. “But it’s so much harder than that. Things such as sleep, growth and exercise affect his blood sugars, as well as the types of food he eats. He has to carb count everything and give himself insulin accordingly.”

Sean also wears an insulin pump and glucose sensor to help him regulate and monitor his blood sugar. “We need to make sure we’re stocked with his supplies and insulin at all times, which is challenging. We wake up several times in the middle of the night to monitor his blood sugar, and we always have to make sure he carries sweets and wears his insulin pump to treat high or low blood sugars,” Healy said. “He is so mature and very good with monitoring himself. He has so much more responsibility than I wish he had to have at his age, but we are incredibly proud of his positive outlook on type 1 diabetes. His attitude is remarkable.”

Sean’s insulin pump delivers insulin to his body via tubing rather than having to do multiple shots a day. “This site needs to be changed and the pump needs to be refilled with insulin every three days, and it is sort of ‘fired’ into his body with a spring-loaded needle. It should stay in place for three days, unless he jostles it or it’s ripped out during sports,” Healy said.

His Continuous Glucose Meter (CGM) gives a real-time reading of his current blood sugar, rather than having to do finger sticks all day. “He still has to do a finger stick morning and night to make sure the CGM is calibrated correctly, but it’s so much easier than before when we were making him test all the time,” Healy said. “This is also fired into his body with an even bigger needle [than the insulin pump], and he has been rotating the site back and forth between the backs of his arms. It’s about the size of a AA battery and it sends a signal via Bluetooth to a device that looks like a pager that he wears on his belt.” Healy also gets a message to her cell phone, so she can monitor his blood sugar from afar.

The CGM has given Sean’s parents peace of mind, particularly while he’s sleeping or playing sports. “We don’t have many nights where it doesn’t go off in the middle of the night, but the upside to this is that we’re hoping to prevent him from having long-term complications down the road,” Healy said.

Sean is a JDRF ambassador, which he got into because of Mary Anne Bryan, a fellow St. Barnabas parishioner and Sean’s religious education teacher. Bryan is the site manager for a JDRF walk-in and was impressed with Sean’s outspokenness. Sean has spoken about life with type 1 diabetes to corporate offices that sponsor JDRF, including McDonald’s and Marshall’s. “We have had such great experiences at these speaking engagements, and we can’t say enough about how warm and generous Marshall’s is, especially,” Healy said.

Sean is happy to share his story. “I decided that I would do it because I know that not too many people like speaking publicly … and I like speaking to large amounts of people,” Sean said. “I talk about how I manage diabetes, the differences and similarities, and the activities I’m able to participate in. I like spreading the word!”

As a super-active kid, Sean plays basketball, soccer and volleyball, and is interested in getting into lacrosse. “Usually I wear my medical device and if I hear it beep I’ll check it mid-game,” he said. “My devices have made my life so much easier.”

Sean is driven to educate others, particularly his friends and the parents of kids who are recently diagnosed. “I just want people to know that I’m just like them. I don’t want them to think I’m a cyborg [because of the medical devices], and I don’t want them to think I’m any different from them just because I have diabetes. I fit in with the crowd, and in fact a lot of my friends will say something when they hear my device beeping and will ask if I need insulin or candy. My friends are really good about it,” he said.

Sean is the child oldest in his family, followed by Megan, 10 and Erin, 6. As if the responsibility of being a big brother wasn’t enough, he’s also responsible for ensuring his blood sugars stay where they need to be. “My husband Dan and I are continually proud of Sean and his positive attitude, as well as impressed by his ability to discuss such a personal and challenging subject. He welcomes anyone asking him questions about what the devices attached to his body are, and he’s able to answer pretty much all questions about type 1 diabetes and what it means to be diabetic,” Healy said.

The Healys, the McKees and the Durkins, another area family with a son with type 1 diabetes, are a part of the Beverly Brigade JDRF team. Last year, they raised $20,000 in support of diabetes research. For more information on type 1 diabetes or to make a donation, visit