Maine star athlete tells Senate committee her struggles with diabetes

Posted July 16, 2015, at 3:56 p.m.

Kate Hall was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 10 years old.

Not long afterward, she experienced a moment that steeled her resolve in making sure the disease did not define her.

“The thing that stood out to me the most was being benched during my first soccer game after my diagnosis,” Hall explained. “That really made me realize that diabetes wasn’t going to ever stop me from doing the things I love most. I thought, ‘I am not sitting out on anything ever again, if I can help it. I am figuring this thing out.’”

That was part of the testimony the 18-year-old from Casco gave Wednesday, when she appeared before the Senate Special Committee on Aging in Washington. The hearing, titled “Diabetes Research: Improving Lives on the Path to a Cure,” was held in conjunction with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s “Children’s Congress.”

Hall, a record-setting long jumper and sprinter who competed at Lake Region High School in Naples, was among those invited by Sen. Susan Collins, who chairs the Special Committee on Aging, to share their experiences of living with Type 1 diabetes.

Hall spoke for 4½ minutes, publicly sharing the challenges she has encountered and, thus far, conquered in pursuing her track and field career.

“Because I live with Type 1 diabetes, keeping my blood sugar in a healthy range as much as possible is just as important a part of my training and success as anything I do to prepare for competitions,” Hall said.

The process can be disruptive and time consuming.

“During my training or competition, I try to take my blood sugar every half-hour to ensure a high or low blood sugar will not affect my performances,” she added.

Hall emerged as one of the most dominating athletes in Maine track and field history. In four years, she went undefeated in the long jump, the 100 meters and the 200 meters against in-state competition.

She capped off her high school career last month, when she won the long jump at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals with a record-setting leap of 22 feet, 5 inches. The effort was good enough to meet the automatic qualifying standard for the U.S. Olympic Trials.

“My dream is to one day represent the United States at the Olympics,” Hall, who will attend Iowa State University in the fall, said.

“Although I’ll be far from home and working with a new team of coaches, one key part of my life remains unchanged — the challenges of managing my Type 1 diabetes every single day.”

Hall talked about the complexities and frustrations of maintaining a proper blood-sugar level in order to be able to perform consistently well as an athlete. Painful muscle cramps have sidelined her for a day or even a week.

Her testimony also touched on an issue facing some Type 1 diabetics. She wears an insulin pump, which provides regulated levels of insulin to help control her blood sugar.

Hall also has utilized a continuous glucose monitor or CGM, but a recent change of insurance companies meant that device no longer is covered.

“With most private health insurance covering CGMs these days, I am hopeful that my current plan will update its policy so I can use a CGM again,” Hall said. “These devices help me spend more of a day in a healthy blood-sugar range and also helps me in training and competing.”

Hall thanked Collins and Congress for its efforts in approving funding and asked the Senate committee to continue supporting efforts geared toward diabetes research.

“We need the scientists to help us figure out even better treatments and a cure for this disease,” she said.

Isabelle Levesque, a 10-year-old from Arundel who suffers from Type 1 diabetes, also was among those who testified.

Collins praised Hall for her achievements despite suffering from Type 1 diabetes.

“It was just thrilling to hear of your success and setting new records, and to do so while coping with a very complicated illness is even more impressive,” Collins said. “But most of all, you really inspire all of the children who are here today to know that they, too, can achieve their dreams, so thank you for coming.”

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