A Champion’s Spirit

A Champion’s Spirit

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Battling cerebral palsey, St. John’s native Jeremy Jones has medaled at the Canadian Track and Field Championship.

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Sherry Jones pulled her car over on the side of the road recently, picked up her iPad and live-streamed her son competing in a wheelchair race at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Ottawa, which took place July 3-8.

Personal Best 

Jeremy beat his personal best (in the 400 metre wheelchair race).  “I sat there watching and I just cried,” Sherry said during a recent interview at her home in St. John’s.

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A day or so later, the 21-year-old clinched a bronze medal at the national competition in the 200 metre wheelchair race – clocking another personal best time. Jeremy has cerebral palsy. 

Watching him race is emotional for Sherry who is very much aware of the struggles he and his twin sister Kaitlyn faced in life, particularly during their early months.

“We (Sherry and her husband Terry) were called to the hospital a number of times when they didn’t think they would make it through the night. You went (to the hospital) every day just living in the moment, because you just didn’t know what you were going to hear,” Sherry said trying, unsuccessfully, to control her emotions.

Sherry recalled the day she and her husband Terry were told she was carrying twins. The news came during her 18-week ultrasound.

“We knew we wanted to start a family early, but I was overwhelmed. We were both shocked at first.”

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While the couple looked forward to the babies’ births, they got another surprise when Sherry went into labour and delivered the babies at just 27-weeks into her pregnancy.

Jeremy weighed just over two pounds, eight ounces. His sister weighed just over two pounds, six ounces. Both newborns were whisked away, placed on ventilators and baptized shortly after their birth.

The following day (the babies were born at St. Clare’s Hospital in St. John’s) they were taken by ambulance to the Janeway Hospital which, at the time, was in Pleasantville. 

The babies would spend the first six months of their lives in the Janeway.

“They both had water on their brain and were shunted… And they both had a hole in hearts and had open-heart surgery,” she recalled.

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Sherry and Terry also have a 12-year-old daughter, Emma. Emma was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age five. While her diabetes is controlled with an insulin pump, the diagnosis came as a shock, Sherry said.

‘Ability in Disability’

“I’ve been at the Janeway so often, I know the procedure. When you’re brought into a room, you know it’s something serious,” Sherry said through her tears.

Jeremy, who is also deaf, has undergone surgeries both in this province and in Montreal. 

“When he was younger he used to walk with a walker. He used to fall a lot but now he walks independently. He lip reads a lot and people say he’s like a ray of sunshine… he leaves a positive impact on everyone who’s around him.”

Sherry estimates that her children’s surgeries over the years total over 50 operations. As a para-athlete Jeremy competes in numerous sports – from sit skiing to wheelchair racing to wheelchair basketball. He trains at the Pearlgate Track and Field Complex in Mount Pearl and at a local gym with a coach.

Terry works away from home to provide for his family.  Sherry drives Jeremy to his training – six days a week. Jeremy travels outside the province frequently for competition. 

The family would like to get him a sponsor to help offset the cost of his travel expenses. Jeremy recently finished high school at Waterford Valley and is hoping to get a part-time job for the summer.

The school was fantastic, Sherry said, and Jeremy got the supports he needed to succeed. “Jeremy has proven that ability is in disability.”

Kaitlyn has a learning disability but has also done well, with some support, Sherry said. She has preschool certification through the Association of Early Childhood Educators NL (AECENL) and enjoys working with children, she said.

Over the years, she said, she’s had no trouble speaking up for any supports her children may have needed. She encourages other parents to do what they feel is best for their child.  “A lot of times I felt like walking away but then who would be there to help them? You know there are services that they need and, if you didn’t fight for them, you wouldn’t get them.”

Sherry’s main focus is helping her children live life to the fullest. She does so by taking one day at a time.

“Every day the floors might not get washed or the dishes might not get done. We just take things as they come and do what we need to do. All our children have made their mark and they’ve done well. We are very proud of them all.”

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