SOUTH CHINA — In softball, pressure is a 3-2 count, or a go-ahead run in scoring position. For Erskine pitcher Kayla Hodgkins, however, pressure takes on a whole different meaning entirely.

Pressure for Hodgkins means managing blood sugar levels, throughout the morning, afternoon and night. It means five shots a day. And it means knowing that missing just one of those shots could mean a trip to an emergency room.

Hodgkins describes those stakes. And she shrugs.

Erskine senior captain Kayla Hodgkins swings a bat during practice Monday in South China. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

“Now it’s just like a normal thing, almost,” she said.

Hodgkins has made sure of it. The senior was diagnosed with Type I diabetes in January and dealt with an emergence of Lyme disease in May, but has bounced back from both challenges to flourish as the starting pitcher and cleanup hitter of an Eagles team that, as the No. 9 seed in the Class B North playoffs, will take on No. 8 Mt. Desert Island in the preliminary round Tuesday afternoon.

“She’s been a rock,” coach Holly Tripp said. “She loves softball. It’s her life. There is not a priority that gets in the way of softball, so when I had to sit with her and say ‘It’s OK if your body can’t do everything it used to do,’ she was just like ‘No no. If I’m standing on second when my blood sugar crashes, we’ll just solve the problem.’ “


Type I diabetes is a disorder in which the pancreas is unable to regulate blood sugar levels. That means anyone with it has to check his or her levels meticulously, and apply either insulin if levels are high, or eat or drink sugar if they’re low. And do it quickly.

She’s always counting her carbohydrates,” Tripp said. “She’s intaking, and it’s this constant math equation. They’ve really been adjusting her levels all the time. What they do at home, her family, is just unbelievable.”

Athletics can only complicate the process. But softball is Hodgkins’s passion, and she was going to do whatever she needed to get the most out of her senior year.

“In my senior year, I didn’t want to stop playing softball just because I got diagnosed with diabetes,” she said. “It’s not really that urgent to just end your life, and stop all the activities you want to do.”

Hodgkins’s medical issues likely extend back to last year, when she noticed numerous tick bites from her outdoor pursuits. Then, in early January, she awoke with flu symptoms, and was vomiting into the morning. Later in the day, however, she started hallucinating, and she was brought on a doctor’s suggestion to Maine General, where it was originally suspected that she was dealing with Lyme disease — until they noticed that her sugar levels, which are normally between 100 and 200, were up to 1200.

The diagnosis changed to diabetes, though Hodgkins didn’t initially hear it — her brain had swelled, and she was unconscious. She was taken to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, where she spent a week, lost 30 pounds, eventually came to and got the update from her mother.


“My mom was like ‘You have type I diabetes,’ ” she said. “I was like ‘I don’t even know what that is.’ “

Hodgkins said she was never unsure about her ability to get back in shape for her favorite sport. She did, however, worry about the urgency of her situation.

You have to load syringes, and before every meal you have to give (yourself) your shots,” she said. “That’s like five times a day, wherever you are. It doesn’t matter. And then, at nighttime, you have to give yourself a shot. And if you miss it, that’s your life. You’re done right there if you miss it.”

When the season approached, Tripp and Hodgkins’s family met to make sure everyone was prepared for Kayla’s condition.

I didn’t even know she’d be able to stand on second. Hit a double, stand on second, what happens?” Tripp said. “It was scary for me, I think it was scary for them, just thinking about what could happen and who has what role and what we could do.”

Everything, though, went well — until mid-May, when Hodgkins was at school and suddenly felt her face going numb. The thinking at first was that Hodgkins, who has a milk allergy, was having a reaction.


Another trip to the doctors’ office instead confirmed the Lyme disease that was suspected in January, leading them to confirm that it had been present all along and had triggered the onset of diabetes.

“She can’t catch a break,” Tripp said.

Hodgkins was treated and back on the field the next day, but she said the Lyme hasn’t gone away.

“Every time I go low, I notice my mouth is getting numb and the whole side of my body will become numb, all the way to my toes,” she said. “(Doctors) said that that could be my blood sugar being affected by the Lyme. It’s all playing together.”

Try as they might, though, the diseases have nothing on Hodgkins. She’s led the Eagles all season long, and taken a team that went 5-11 a season ago to a 9-7 mark and its first playoff berth since 2016.

It hasn’t been easy. But again, there’s the shrug.

I’ve always had the mindset of I’m going to do it no matter what,” she said. “If overall you’re strong and want to work at what you do, then don’t give up. It’s really not worth it.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: