HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - A Huntsville woman went from being healthy to hospitalized in a matter of months. Even though she's battling non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, she's committed to helping others too. Kingslea Merkel has been dealing with this illness for more than six years. She is on the active liver transplant list, but that's not all there is to her. Merkel is full of energy and hope!
Clementine's is known in the Huntsville community for its tasty chicken salads. Now, you'll notice something else at the Five Points restaurant. The counters are covered in bright green, which is the awareness color for liver disease. Framed information, green cups for sale, and a decorated donation jar are on display. It's all to support Clementine's daughter, Kingslea Merkel, and the organization she founded.
"It all started six years ago," explains Merkel. "One morning, I woke up and I was completely jaundiced and found out I had fatty liver disease. At the time, there was no knowledge about fatty liver disease or what to do with it."
Now, she knows exactly what to do with it and that's give back and educate the public.
"I also want to teach people about nutrition," describes Merkel. "Something as simple as eating a high protein, low sodium diet completely reverses your liver function if you have a fatty liver."
Some of her other goals are to form support groups and raise money to help patients with medications, healthcare costs and travel expenses.
"It's a very expensive disease to deal with," says Merkel. "If you don't have insurance, then that's a lot of hardship."
Since starting in October of 2015, The Kingslea Merkel Liver Disease Foundation has sold t-shirts ad held fundraisers, like the Creole Feast, to come up with the money to donate to families in need.
"Once you are able to give someone a check for a $1,000 and give them a month of a prescription, it definitely just makes me feel good," says Merkel.
WHNT NEWS 19 knows the feeling and are glad to give $319 to the cause.
"It 's so exciting!" says Merkel. "I cannot wait to contact another patient that has not been helped and definitely be able to give this to them."
To give you an idea of how expensive it can be, Merkel says that she has already spent $10,000 this year in healthcare costs and copays. Fortunately, Merkel has health insurance and the means to pay for it. However, everyone doesn't and that's what she says keeps her motivated.
Merkel says the foundation is in the process of organizing monthly classes that will be held at Clementine's for people to get more information about liver disease. You can follow the Kingslea Merkel Liver Disease Foundation Facebook page to keep up with event information and announcements.