A Gray fifth grader tells the Senate that diabetes won't curb his dreams

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Charlie Albair, a 10-year-old from Gray, told U.S. senators Wednesday that he is “just like a lot of other kids” who love sports and hope to play for the Boston Red Sox someday.

Testifying before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, the fifth grader said there is, however, “one big difference” between him and most other children: “I have have Type 1 diabetes.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who chairs the panel and founded the Senate Diabetes Caucus in 1997, held a special hearing to focus on the progress being made toward a cure. She said the hearing is meant to raise awareness and emphasize congressional commitment “to conquering this disease.”

Albair said that back in first grade, he “started not feeling like myself.”

“I kept asking the teacher to go to the bathroom because I really, really had to,” he testified. “She got angry at me because she thought I just was trying to skip class.”

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He said he felt confused when he learned of his diagnosis — and his teacher “felt bad” for giving him a hard time.

At first, he said, “we treated my diabetes with syringes” but six months later he got a pump and monitor that could check his sugar levels regularly.

“I love it. I don’t have to be constantly stabbing myself with a needle – like five or 10 times a day,” Albair said.

“What does this mean for me? When I first found out I had diabetes, I remember thinking that this would change my whole life. I thought that I wouldn’t realize my dream of being a sports star,” he said.

“Now I can realize I can do whatever I want,” he said.

Collins said an artificial pancreas is in the middle of a clinical trial that might make it possible for younger people to use them.

“Look how tiny it is. That’s amazing,” Collins said when one teenager held one up to show what they look like.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said she hopes Congress will maintain strong support for the National Institutes of Health and the research that’s pointing the way toward a cure.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., said it’s a good thing there is bipartisan support for continuing to press ahead with efforts to help the 30 million Americans who have diabetes.

“We need money for research, Albair said. “We need money so scientists can invent new pumps and monitors better than what we have now – and so they can come up with a cure.”

He told senators they “have supported kids like me for so many years, and all I ask is that you continue to do so. And if you do, I will invite you to a game when I am on the Red Sox.”

Collins said, “I can’t wait to see you playing at Fenway Park. I’ll be there.”

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