HOUSTON (FOX 26) - One step, one walk, one future without liver disease. That's the goal of the Liver Life Walk. I'm excited to host the event and help increase awareness about the fight against one of the fastest-growing health concerns in the U.S. By the way, the event will take place rain or shine!
Maddie Collins will be there. She's the Liver Champion for the 2016 Liver Life Walk in Houston. She's a college student now, but she was quite an athlete at Katy High School. Her life changed forever during her freshman year. She was diagnosed with a rare liver condition called Wilson's Disease. It was quite a shock to her and her family.
"The only liver disease I had ever heard of - cirrhosis from drinking a lot, or hepatitis, but had never heard of Wilson's Disease," says Collins.
Within a few days of Collins' diagnosis, her body started to shut down. She was only 14 years old and needed a new liver immediately! She got her transplant and is doing well now. She must take anti-rejection drugs every twelve hours of the day for the rest of her life to make sure she stays healthy.
Because Collins has a genetic condition, everyone in her family had to be tested. Test results determined her (then) 10-year old brother had it too. He's undergoing kelation therapy, which binds the copper in his body and takes it with zinc. After it binds the copper, he'll excrete it and reverses the effects of Wilson's Disease.
Collins says some of those drugs cost $30,000 a month, but because of awareness and treatment, he's doing well and remains athletic and involved in school activities.
Carmen Herrera with the American Liver Foundation says it's situations, like Maddie's, that fuel the need for more funds for liver disease.
"The liver itself is the driving force to our survival," explains Herrera. "We want people to know that the liver has gotten a bad rap over the years. We want you to know the importance of keeping the liver healthy, doing the things you should or should not do, it's about life."
There are more than 100 types of liver disease that affect 30 million people. Lifestyle factors do contribute to some of them but not all of them, as in the case with Maddie.
"The unfortunate thing about it is most people don't know," says Herrera. "It doesn't usually have a lot of signs. Liver disease is often a silent killer. Most people don't find out until it's too late -- like Maddie did. She was very fortunate to find out in time and fortunate to get a liver."
The Liver Life Walk will take place on Saturday, April 30 at MacGregor Park on 5225 Calhoun Road in southeast Houston. You can still register online by visiting http://go.liverfoundation.org/site/TR/LiverLifeWalk2016/DesertSouthwest?pg=entry&fr_id=5290 or arrive at 8 a.m. Saturday. Again, this is a rain-or-shine event. There's a pavilion where festivities will take place, regardless of rainy weather.