“We are heartbroken to share that Kay left us unexpectedly this morning,” her family said in a statement, according to The Charlotte Observer.
“Kay meant everything to us, and we were honoured to share her with the people of North Carolina whom she cared for and fought for so passionately as an elected official,” the family said. “Most of all, we already miss her humour and spirit as the hub of our family, a role she loved more than anything. Nobody could light up a room and make people feel welcome like Kay.”
Hagan became the second woman ever elected to the US Senate from North Carolina in 2008 but then lost the seat in 2014 to the state’s then-House Speaker Thom Tillis. She had previously worked as a lawyer and a banker.
The former senator was diagnosed with encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, in 2016 and hospitalised for six months. Her condition was later reported to have been caused by Powassan virus, which is spread by ticks from animals to humans.
This past June, Hagan made a rare public appearance for the groundbreaking ceremony of a new air traffic control tower at Piedmont Triad International Airport near her hometown of Greensboro. She was seated in a wheelchair and did not speak publicly, although she exchanged private greetings with some of the attendees.
“Kay’s ability to speak is limited, but her comprehension is very good,” her husband, Chip Hagan, told The News & Record later that day. “She still has a great deal of difficulty in standing and walking.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.