Santa Su grad has ‘so much to do’

Santa Susana High School graduate Sean Shrager doesn’t believe in giving up.

Though he was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) when he was 3 years old, Sean has never let his disease become an excuse for not attaining his goals. In fact, it has only motivated him to work harder to succeed.

“I never try to sell myself short,” the 18-year-old said. “I’ll be damned if life gets me down, because I have so much life to live and so much to do.”

Duchenne is one of nine types of muscular dystrophy, a genetic degenerative disease that primarily affects the voluntary muscles. It eventually weakens all muscles, including the heart and breathing muscles.

The disease mainly affects boys, who inherit the disorder through their mothers. Unknown to his adoptive parents, Mark and Helen, Sean’s birth mother was a carrier of DMD.

Other than the occasional stumble, Helen Shrager said Sean looked and acted like any other kid when he was younger. As he got older, however, he started to fall more often, and when he was 8 years old he needed to start using a manual wheelchair.

Two years later, in 2000, he began using an electric chair like the one he uses today. Sean said it was difficult to lose his ability to walk while his peers were able to run and play.

After a year of asking “Why me?” Sean said he resolved to not let being in a wheelchair control his life.

While at Santa Su, Sean studied under the fine arts academy, pursuing his passion for visual arts and animation as well as drawing, painting and writing poetry. He achieved a 3.7 grade-point average and ranked 24 out of 319 students. He also received the President’s Education Award for academic excellence and high honors for computer animation.

Ross Craig, one of Sean’s aides, described Sean as a smart, hardworking kid who is well-liked by his peers and has a good sense of humor.

“He knows sometimes he can’t do things as fast as the other kids,” Craig said, “but it doesn’t stop him from doing what he has to do.”

Helen Shrager said her son’s success, both medically and academically, is due to his positive attitude.

“I don’t want him to dwell on the negative part of having this disease but to instead use his strengths to accomplish his goals and live the happiest life he can,” she said.

While there is no cure for DMD, Sean visits doctors frequently to monitor his condition and does aquatic physical therapy.

Sean has limited hand, arm and head movement and needs assistance with positioning to do the most basic of activities, but he hopes that by overcoming his challenges he will inspire others to do the same. “I want to show people that even though life is kind of crappy sometimes, you have to move on,” he said. “Never give up, and pursue your goals.”

Sean will attend Moorpark College in the fall to study graphic design. He hopes to transfer to CSU Channel Islands.

Copyright 2009 Simi Valley Acorn