Kelliann Keogh is a nine-year-old football player from Cranford, New Jersey, who does not let her diabetes get in her way. She plays halfback and safety for the Cranford Cougars in the Police Athletic League (PAL). On October 19, the Cougars played at MetLife Stadium, which is where the Giants and Jets play.
Kelliann made a tackle that saved a touchdown, a play that was shown on the Jumbotron. “It was amazing what I was able to do,” said Kelliann.
She had brought a football to the stadium for the Jets players to sign if she saw them, but she decided to have her teammates sign it instead. “[My teammates] mean more to me than some Jets players that I can see on TV,” she said.
In November, which was National Diabetes Month, Kelliann helped her team win the division championship trophy.
Kelliann’s football skills are remarkable for any player, but they are especially astonishing once you know the daily obstacles that Kelliann faces. Kelliann has Type 1 diabetes, which means that her body does not produce insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar.
If her blood sugar is too high, she gets nauseous and has to take insulin. But if her blood sugar is too low, Kelliann feels shaky and loses focus and has to eat snacks even though she might not feel like it.
On any given day, Kelliann has to stop and think about how she is feeling, even during football games and practices. This may get tricky because she could be in the middle of a play when she starts to feel unusual. She then has to stop what she is doing to take care of herself.
Kelliann wears an insulin pump all the time (except for when she plays in football games). Her pump usually does not make it more difficult to play, but sometimes it falls off when she is running or is in an uncomfortable position and she has to stop and fix it.
She checks her blood sugar 10 to 15 times a day by pricking her finger and checking her blood sugar level on a blood glucose meter. This also makes it more difficult to focus on playing sports.
Kelliann had some very meaningful advice for kids. For girls playing football, she said: “Don’t be afraid. Just go out there and do what you want.”
For those who are diabetic and want to play sports, Kelliann encouraged, “Just keep doing what you love — it will get you farther and help you accomplish things. Don’t stop. Diabetes can’t hold you back.”
Kelliann’s coach, Brian Bradford, called her an “extraordinary young athlete. To overcome the obstacles in her way is inspiring. Whatever she sets her mind to, she will achieve.”
Photos: Kelliann Keogh (profile, trophy), Andrew Hooey (action, team)