GALION — Krista Collins is a fighter.
She battled Crohn’s Disease for years before she was actually diagnosed with it in 2006. Then, in 2013, she began to get more sick than she had ever been before.
The wife of Ken, mother to Shelbi and a hard worker in the registration department at Galion Community Hospital, Krista was suddenly so sick she could not keep anything down.
“I went to the ER several times. They thought it was my Crohn’s Disease acting up,” Krista said. “But it continued. They did some testing and found that I had gallstones.”
She underwent surgery to have her gallbladder removed.
“I still had all of the symptoms I had before,” she said. “At this point, I had lost about 50 pounds because I was so sick. They ran more tests and thought that I had lymphoma so they sent me to an oncologist.”
The oncologist diagnosed Krista with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that can affect multiple organs in the body, mostly the lungs and lymph glands.
Krista said her body had continued to produce stones after her gall bladder was removed and that those stones collected in her bile duct, which began causing damage to her liver.
Krista was put on steroids for 10 months, but after that, her symptoms continued and were getting worse. Another trip to the ER led her to a different physician, who immediately sent her to Riverside Hospital in Columbus.
“In 2015, I was diagnosed with PSC, which is primary sclerosing cholangitis. They put in a stint and cleaned out my bile duct, but it continued to clog,” said Krista.
Krista was told only about 5 percent of patients suffering from Crohn’s Disease end up with the secondary diagnosis of PSC.
“I wish I would be that lucky when it comes to winning the lottery,” Krista joked.
Krista was informed by her doctors in October 2016 that she would need a liver transplant.
“I went through extensive testing before I could be placed on the list,” she explained.
Ken, who has been married to Krista for nearly 20 years, said the couple went through months of education about the transplant process.
After that, things moved quickly.
On Feb. 26, Krista and Ken received the call they had been waiting for. A liver was available and she needed to leave work and head to The Ohio State University Hospital in Columbus.
Krista said the hardest part for her to accept was that someone had lost their life and she was receiving their liver.
“It is heart-breaking,” she said through tears.
Krista’s mom, Connie Grimm, said her daughter has done remarkably well since the transplant.
“It puts her dad and me at peace knowing her husband is so good with her. He takes excellent care of her and was by her side through everything,” said Grimm.
Krista’s family is a close one, and Grimm, along with her twin sister Sharon Eaton and others, are planning a benefit from noon to 5 p.m. on May 7 at the Galion Moose to assist the couple with Krista’s mounting medical bills.
“Kenny took time off work throughout Krista’s surgery to be by her side and of course, Krista is off work right now,” Connie said.
Eaton said she was not sure if Krista and Ken would be on board with a benefit.
“They are very hard workers and very proud people. I wasn’t sure if they would give us the green light for the benefit. But they did and I am glad. It is okay to ask for help when you really need it,” Eaton said.
Eaton and Grimm said the benefit will feature a spaghetti dinner, music, a cake and candy sale, silent and live auctions, a plant sale, and a 50/50 drawing.
“We will even have things like face-painting for the kids, too. It is a family-friendly event,” said Eaton.
Grimm said Krista’s daughter, Shelbi Collins, is a workaholic like her mother.
“She is working two jobs and going to college. She works at Taco Bell and the Olive Garden,” said Grimm. “The Olive Garden is donating the spaghetti for the dinner. We are so grateful.”
Krista is at home recuperating from her transplant and making plans for the future.
“I want to become an ambassador for Lifeline of Ohio,” she said. “The transplant program saved my life and I want to give back.”
Krista said she is allowed to write a letter to the family of her donor after a six-month waiting period.
“I will write it through Lifeline of Ohio and it will be up to the family if they wish to contact me or not,” she explained. “I want them to know how grateful I am for their loved one’s donation. Because of that person, I will be able to see my daughter finish college, get married one day and have grandchildren. I am so very thankful.”
Krista also is thankful to her doctors, the staff at OSU, and to her family and friends for all of their supportive and more importantly, their prayers.
“The power of prayer is amazing,” Krista said.
For more information about organ donation, visit https://lifelineofohio.org.
For more information or to donate to the benefit, call Connie Grimm at 419-468-7702 or visit https://www.gofundme.com/krista-collins-new-liver.