TERRE HAUTE, Ind.—If there were one word to describe Indiana State senior softball player, Morgan Allee, it would be determined.
One might say all division one athletes are determined in order to progress through the hours of practice and countless number of laps they have run; Allee is ‘determined’ for a different reason.
One might also say Allee is determined as she led the Missouri Valley Conference in stolen bases and finished ninth overall in NCAA Division 1. Allee is ‘determined’ for a different reason.
While she is determined to succeed on the field, Allee is more determined not to limit herself by things that her teammates and competitors do not have to deal with.
When she was two years old, Allee was diagnosed with an extremely rare disease called abetalipoproteinemia. If you have never heard of it, that is because there have only been about 100 cases ever reported worldwide to-date according to the Office of Rare Diseases.
The United States National Institute of Health describes abetalipoproteinemia as “a disease in which a person is unable to fully absorb dietary fats, cholesterol and fat-soluble vitamins.” Many of these fats and the vitamins they contain are essential for the development of the bodies main systems, including the brain.
There is no known cure for this disease and someone diagnosed with the disease must undergo rigorous dietary restrictions. Even with treatment, individuals diagnosed with the disease often have a greatly reduced life expectancy.
In order for her to function on a daily basis and to keep her body from degenerating at an alarming rate, Allee must take multiple vitamins each day; 61 vitamins to be exact.
“Most people see me [take my vitamins] and they know that I have this disease and still are like ‘whoa’. They don’t think it’s human,” Allee said.
As a kid, Allee started taking 24 Vitamin E tablets each day and that number has been inflated to 57, her current amount. She also takes one Vitamin K tablet every day and three Vitamin A tablet’s every other day for a grand total of 61.
While it may seem like it would be difficult for others not to know about the disease, Allee says few people know about it until after she has gotten to know them.
“People are shocked when they first find out,” Allee said “They would never guess it by looking at me. [The coaching staff] found out this past fall probably during the first week of school. They asked a lot of questions because they had never heard of anything like this before. They wanted to know a lot about it because they wanted to know what they could do to help.”
After finding out about her teammate and roommate’s condition, senior Shelby Wilson said, “I was really shocked, and did not know about the disease. I thought it had to have been very stressful to have to monitor her food intake so much.”
Finding out about Allee’s condition came as a shock and concern to head softball coach Shane Bouman but as a staff, Bouman says they try to learn about it as much as possible in order to ensure Allee is taken care of.
“Morgan is one who is all about the team and does not like to be treated any different that the next,” Bouman said. “We were made aware of this soon after her arrival to Indiana State. We care about our student-athletes and try to always be here for them but in Morgan’s situation our staff has spent time each week talking to her and learning more about abetalipoproteinemia.”
Despite having this condition, Allee has had great success in her athletic career. Prior to coming to Indiana State last season, Allee attended Iowa Central College for two seasons. During her sophomore season, Allee earned the NFCA Golden Shoe Award, which is given to the top base-stealer in each division, stealing 73 bases.
Last season, her first at Indiana State, Allee wasted no time in breaking the Sycamore single-season stolen bases record, accruing 36 in 50 games, breaking the previous record of 28 and one off the Missouri Valley Conference record of 37.
Allee finished her first year as a Sycamore in the top 10 in NCAA Division I in stolen bases and despite only playing at Indiana State for two seasons, needs just 32 stolen bases to tie the Sycamore career stolen bases record.
While many people with this type of condition don’t have the opportunity play sports at all, let alone at the division one level, Allee feels it is a gift and something she never would have dreamed of being able to do without the doctors who helped her along the way.
“A lot of kids in my position are not able to function on their own, so I feel like it’s a blessing that I get to play at this level. When I was a kid, I didn’t really think about it or understand [the risks]. I think because they found it early and I had such good doctors, they got me to where I could start playing sports as a kid.”
Now as her final season as a collegiate athlete looms, Allee looks ahead at what life might hold.
“Sometimes it doesn’t set in that I have to hang up the cleats after this year”, Allee said. “I want to stay in the game and help coach. I want to be able to impact other people like my coaches have impacted me.”
One way that she tries to impact other people is through her play on the softball field. Her teammates and those who know her best see her success and use that motivation to try and better themselves.
“Seeing Morgan succeed with having this disease has really motivated me to push myself more than what I do,” teammate Megan Bunting said. “It is great to see someone have such success even with having something that can limit her.”
After seeing her team’s accomplishments on the field and in life despite a serious condition, Allee says she doesn’t look back at what might have been had she not been diagnosed with abetalipoproteinemia.
“At this point, I don’t ever really think about, I think I am used to it. I never wish I didn’t have it though, because I think I have learned a lot by having it.”
While the condition seems to have done little to hold Allee back on the field, there are still times when she struggles with symptoms of the disease and looks to her coaches and a close group of friends to help her get through.
“Honestly our staff talks at length about the condition and want to help Morgan be the best she can be,” Bouman said. “We want her to dream and strive to reach her goals while at Indiana State and for the rest of her life. Morgan will be a champion forever. She has made a huge impact on Sycamore Softball already in only a short time.”
“Morgan is one of the most caring individuals I have known in my life. She is so kind, always stops by to check on the coaching staff with a smile and high five. She is the type of athlete you want on your team because being such a competitor, some do not enjoy playing against her.”
As someone who has overcome a serious illness and continues to overcome it each day, Allee offers advice to others who may have a similar circumstance.
“Make the most out of each day. You never know when it is going to be your last. For everything that people help you with, make sure you pass it on and help someone else. Coach Bouman and Coach Zust have told us to smile at everyone because nine out of 10 people will smile back. It is a small gesture that can make someone’s day.”
Morgan’s impact on the program goes further than most see and when asked about how Morgan is as a teammate and an athlete, Coach Bouman said, “I smile as I answer this question. Dedication, commitment and desire to do whatever it takes for her team to win. You want her on your team if you enjoy winning.”