Brothers and sisters are like two peas in a pod. That couldn’t be more true for Mike and Katie Collins – even while having legendary NLU Indians head coach, Pat, as their dad.
“Oh, [Pat] was harder on Mike, ” says Katie. “Mike is his first born.”
“Our rules are a little bit different than [Katie’s] rules, ” says Mike.
“I was always the one that didn’t want to do what [Pat] said to do, ” Katie continues. “And, [Mike] did what he said to do.”
A 12-year age difference separates Mike and Katie. As time passed, both went their separate ways. But, they remained close. Now, she’s his biggest supporter, while he’s leading the Warhawks’ defense.
“I’ll say ‘Oh, my gosh. Will you look at Mike on the sidelines! He’s screaming his head off!,'” Katie reflects. “Other times, he’s calm and excited.”
In turn, Mike was the pillar Katie needed when times were tough.
“It kind of goes back to 10 years ago, or 11 years years ago when I had my liver transplant, ” Katie remembers. “I had a blood clot afterwards. My kidneys did not wake up fully.”
“We were thinking, ‘Oh man. This ain’t good,'” says Mike. “Then they told us she couldn’t have a part of a [liver], she had to have a whole one. She basically was just left on the table. Either try to survive or not survive. And, she did. She fought through it.”
Katie’s kidneys never fully healed.
“About two years ago, I had to see the nephrologist at The Mayo [Clinic], ” says Katie. “And, [the doctor] said, ‘You’re going to need a kidney transplant, probably sooner than later. I would suggest you start looking for a living donor,'” Katie recalls. “I was like, ‘How do you ask someone to give you a kidney?'”
Finding a match for Katie’s kidney was closer than she thought.
“Mike and Cherie, my sister, we’re tested. And, Mike was the better match, ” Katie says.
Despite getting the answer they needed, there was a waiting period. Katie was required to finish her liver medication. Mike needed to complete the grind of football season.
“We kind of looked at the calendar and said, ‘Hey, this might be a good time. I have some extra time right here that normally I would be on the road,'” Mike remembers. “And, the recruiting calendar was a dead period then.”
After nearly two years, the duo trekked to The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
“You’re seeing different people,” Mike says. “You’re seeing different doctors, because she has a team and I have a team so there’s no crossovers in there.”
On a cold January morning, surgeons successfully placed Mike’s kidney inside of Katie.
“I just took a nap, ” Katie remembers. “And, they got me up and said, “We’re rolling you down.’ And, the next thing I knew it was 10:00 at night. They kept me down a little bit longer, because I had to have some blood due to blood disorder that I have.”
“Lights are out at 8:30. Last thing I remember is 8:30 a.m., ” says Mike. [I] looked at the clock, don’t remember another time, until I woke up.”
Weeks after the surgery, the two are still recovering. Katie will never forget how Mike gave her the gift of life.
“It was pretty emotional, ” Katie recalls. “Telling everyone. Everybody praying for ya. I don’t think we cried any while I was up there. I just cried home.”
Mike and Katie Collins – meant to be joined by blood, but chosen to be joined by love.
“You want to be able to make sure she has the ability to live as long as she can live, ” says Mike. You really have the key to the treasure. It might be gratifying as it is anything else that you can help. That’s what we are, we’re givers.”