Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chris Klug : Race For My Life

Posted by Bryan Myss

I've been following Chris Klug's story and career for years. He's truly an inspiration to the transplant community, to those who've had a life saving organ or tissue transplant, and to individuals waiting to receive the gift of life.

In just over a week I will have the privilege to collaborate with Chris, the Chris Klug Foundation, Donor Dudes, and Northwest Riders to outreach to the transplant community in Portland Oregon, Patients at OHSU, and to area youth to promote the message of organ + tissue donation. The way this event has quickly come together... the little details all falling into place is surely a testimony in and of itself.

Please take a few moments to read about Chris and his transplant. In the weeks ahead we will be posting an interview with Chris as he prepares for the Winter Olympics in Whistler BC and begins his competitive Snowboarding season in just a few months.

Courtesy of

History :

Born in Vail, Colorado, I learned to ski at a very early age and have been involved in winter sports my whole life. I moved with my family to Bend, Oregon in 1976, and began snowboarding in Moon Boots, of which the flex was determined by the number of wraps of duck tape. I eventually evolved to Sorrels!

Growing up in Bend in the early years was the best. Riding powder with my friends and having fun were top priority. It's funny, that's still top priority! Mt. Bachelor was a mecca for shredders in the early years. I grew up chasing guys like John Caulkins, Kris Jamieson, Chris Karol, Mike Ranquet, Todd Van Belkum and Craig Kelly.

I began competitive snowboard racing as a junior in the amateur ranks. Meeting with success at local events, I moved on to participation in the Northwest Race Series, where I won the majority of events, along with my friend Tad Dobson, and was the Northwest Series Overall Champion two years running.

In the early years, of competitive snowboard competition, boarders took part in all of the events which included giant slalom, halfpipe, moguls, and slalom. Because of the huge amounts of snow in the Northwest when I was growing up, most of the alpine events (G.S. and S.L.) ended up being banked slaloms, which were a lot of fun. One of my favorite events was the famed Mt. Baker Banked Slalom, which I won three times as a junior/amateur. I think competing in all of the disciplines early on in my snowboarding career really helped me develop as a strong, all-around rider.

My first big competition was the North American Championship at Sunshine Village, Banff, Canada where I placed second in the junior halfpipe competition on my Sims Terry Kidwell. That spring I traveled to Stratton, Vermont for my first U.S. Open and finished second in the mogul event to J.J. Collier and second in the slalom. Jeff Brushie beat me by two seconds in the slalom. At Snow Valley, California in 1989 I was named the U.S.A.S.A. National Amateur Champion in Slalom and Super-G. Shortly after I began competing professionally on the P.S.T.A. Tour, as a sixteen year old high school sophomore, and claimed my first tour victory at Hunter Mountain, New York, winning a check for $4,000. In 1991 I became a full-time professional, and participated in my first World Cup event in Garmish, Germany finishing eighth in slalom.

This season marks my eleventh year on the World Cup circuit. In that time I have had four World Cup victories, three Grand Prix wins, five National titles, a U.S. Open Victory and a sixth place in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano Japan. I have had a unique opportunity of being a part of snowboarding's evolution from wooden boards with bungee strap bindings, and leashes that extended from the tip of the board to your front hand, to state-of-the-art equipment, and the arrival of snowboarding competition in the Olympic Games. Through all of this change, I still love to snowboard. This is why I continue to do it! I have been so fortunate to have met the best of people in this sport, and to enjoy together the best sport!"

Transplant Survivor :

On July 28th, 2000 I had a liver transplant at the University Hospital in Denver, Colorado. I was diagnosed nine years earlier with PSC (Primary Sclerosing Cholangitits), a rare degenerative bile duct condition which required a transplant. Dr. Greg Everson and his team took great care of me leading up to the transplant. Dr. Igal Kam performed a perfect surgery and I was back doing what I love less than two months later. I'm so grateful to all the professionals at Denver's University Hospital!

I'm lucky to be alive today. It was truly an amazing experience for me and for my family. To receive the gift of life is a humbling experience. I will forever be grateful for my second chance. Everyday I thank God and I thank the individual's family for the decision to donate.

The hardest part of the transplant was the waiting game leading up to my transplant. It's not like an orthopedic injury. You can't just get the MRI or X-Ray, find out what's up and get it fixed. You're life is put on hold; you hope and pray daily for a second chance. I wore a pager every minute of the day and carried a cell phone as a back up in anticipation of receiving a call from the University Hospital Transplant Team informing me that a liver was available that matched my blood type, age and size. Three months after being upgraded on the list to a more critical stage, I was attempting to work out at the Aspen Club & Spa with my bro Jason, my girlfriend Missy and my buddy Marco and my phone rang. When I finally got the call I was relieved that the wait was finally over, but scared to death of the prospect of possibly not surviving the surgery.I was extremely fortunate. I received a perfect match and had the best team of doctors around performing the operation. I was pretty fit going into the surgery, which helped me bounce back quickly. I worked hard preparing for the surgery both mentally and physically. I was out of the hospital in record time, four days, and back in the gym lightly riding a stationary bike and lifting my arms within a week. I really had to listen to my body and to my doctors and go easy for the first month. The risk of an insertional hernia was high, so I took it easy. We stayed in Downtown Denver at the Magnolia Hotel for the first month following my transplant in Denver. The doctors told us the best thing I could do was walk, so I that's what we did. We walked to Broncos Games, Rockies Games, the new aquarium, and shops all over the city. I even walked a round of golf, following Greg Norman, Sergio Garcia, and Phil Mickelson at the International at Castle Rock. Man, was I spent after that. I remember sitting on the eighteenth green in the shade, after the event for about a half hour catching my breath and trying to muster the energy to make it back to the car.

I returned to Aspen a month after my transplant to begin my rehab with my trainer Bill Fabrocini at the Aspen Club Sports Performance Center. Bill got a kick out of receiving his first script for "Liver transplant physical therapy." We eased back into strength work and did regular abdominal massage and soft tissue work. My abs had been sliced through, so it took quite a while for them to come back and it left a "Bad" new tattoo. I still get curious looks at the pool or lake when I lose my shirt for a dip. I've come up with some pretty good stories explaining my scar. The shark attack tale actually works!I was back on my road bike about four and a half weeks post-surgery, riding with my friends Gary and Marco up Ashcroft outside Aspen. I was sucking wind on that first ride. It took a while for my red blood cell count to return from the low twenties at surgery to normal. I wasn't transporting oxygen like I was used to so my lungs were working overtime at nine thousand feet above Aspen. Seven weeks after my surgery, I began light abdominal strengthening. A week later I headed to Mt. Hood, Oregon for my first runs back on my snowboard. It was pretty special. I remember being so excited to be back on-snow and with my friends. I never take a day of riding with my buddies or a single turn for granted any longer.

I was back on the World Cup Circuit four months after my surgery. Six months later I stood atop the podium in Olang, Italy for the first time. That winter was one of my best seasons ever. I attribute that to a new perspective on life and feeling lucky to be doing what I love again after running the "Race for my Life." A year and a half later I had the opportunity to represent our country in my second Olympic Games where I won a Bronze Medal and fulfilled a life-long dream !

Chris Klug Foundation

Promoting lifesaving donation and improving
the quality of life for donors, donor families,
organ transplant candidates and recipients.

Donor Dudes
Promoting organ and tissue donation
via Action Sports!!!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

One Woman's Sacrifice - Leaves A Lasting Legacy

Words by Bryan Myss

July 4th, 21 yrs ago, I gained my life once again. I was saved for a second time in my life by receiving the gift of life from a young woman who made the choice to become an organ + tissue donor years prior. When she made that choice to be a donor…. she likely did so unknowing that she would leave such a lasting legacy and save my life with her Kidney.

At the age of 10, I had already endured numerous medical procedures (my first at 2 weeks old). I was facing sure death if I was unable to receive a life saving transplant within a short period of time. I had been put on the national waiting list in the top priority category for my current health condition and age. Peritoneal dialysis was functioning as my kidney for the last couple of years, but my condition had become volatile and my young body unable to function long term. My family, friends, doctors, and many others lifted me up in prayer as they had all my life throughout the medical trials. They never stopped believing. They prayed for a healthy life ahead and a sense of normalcy. For that, I am grateful to each and every one of them....because they provided me with the best quality of life I could under the medical circumstances.

The morning of July 4, 1987, I received the letter from the State Police and the call from OHSU while I was camping with my family in Central Oregon. At that pivotal moment in my life I was calm, yet overwhelmed by the gift of life I was about to receive. My Mom and I caught a flight to Portland up to OHSU (the hospital) and I was on the surgery table within hours. Following the transplant that day, my kidney was "sleepy" and not functioning completely... I had to deal with some major complications for the first few weeks... As I was laying there in the hospital during the complications... I couldn't stop thinking I was within reaching distance…. within reality of a long life ahead, a normal life... if I was able to hold on, fight the good fight, and survive the next couple of weeks....but one day, my Father and I were watching a movie in my hospital room and talking about the "new" life I had ahead and the kidney started working without explanation. From that point on I knew I was now going to live a "normal" life without tubes and constant visits to the hospital. My Father, Mother, Grandparents, extended Family, Doctors, and I shared those conversations of hope since I was a little boy.

God, as the great physician, heard the prayers that were lifted up from family, friends, doctors, nurses, and folks that had knowledge of my condition. I am able to thank them daily by the way I live my life and what I do with the gift of life I've received, the legacy I leave. I constantly pay tribute to the woman whom gave me life by remembering her sacrifice... She accepted me unconditionally, and I accepted her..... She gave the ultimate gift by making the choice to be an organ donor and blessed me with a second chance at life.. She keeps me alive, and I keep her alive daily....

I sit back years later in prayer and reflection giving thanks. I am humbled daily that I had been given a second chance at life when so many of my peers did not have that chance. “Why me ?” ….. I've grappled and thought time and time again about the grace and love I received. It took me years to understand and accept what that meant. In that process God has given me such a heart to serve and live for those that have loved, supported, and encouraged me along the way... as well as for folks and families that have endured and/or are currently facing medical adversity. I have lost loved ones, friends and family, to medical situations and "natural" causes. For those of you who read this and can relate or have been impacted by the loss of a loved one...... my heart goes out to you and know that I pray for you…. The tears that are shed are truly tributes to their lives and the impact they’ve had…. Continue their legacy by remembering them daily in all that you do.

I think I am just realizing and accepting what grace and unconditional love truly is.... When I opened my heart to Jesus years ago…. I received hope, love, and grace... In the years prior I had difficulty understanding why God would love me so much, but realized he loves us all.... He loves us so much he is willing to bring us through all circumstances to be in relationship with him individually and in community..... It is amazing to experience that first hand so boldly.

I find comfort, strength, and encouragement in a scripture from the Word that speaks to my heart : “we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope” - Romans 5:3-4

When I sat down to write this…. my intention was to implore you to become an organ and tissue donor and give the gift of life… to leave a lasting legacy. Maybe by reading about my life, my transplant, and about the young woman whom gave me a second chance at life by her decision to be an organ + tissue donor... you would think about the lives you could change by becoming a donor too. Another recipient of a life saving transplant might have the chance to sit here and write about how incredibly grateful they are for your choice to become an organ donor years prior.

Throughout my years spent in the hospital and "living a normal life".... I've gone through a growing process that has provoked in me a vision to serve others that have endured or currently face medical circumstances too.... so I set out with folks alike to walk alongside the masses who are hurting, who are sick, and who are healed but still face a long recovery. We can all do our part and leave a lasting legacy by serving. Get involved in some capacity as you are lead.

I must give thanks to the many who never gave up on me. By their unconditional love and patience, their medical knowledge, and “never give up attitude” I was able to fight through the pain and the endless days in the hospital… without all of them I would surely not be the man I am today. Thank you Dr. Jenkins, Dr. Alexander, Dr. Barry, the OHSU Staff and Nurses…. and of course… all of my family and friends… for standing my by side and walking with me the entire journey thus far.

Some of the latest statistics for Organ + Tissue Donation & Transplantation :

+ Every 13 minutes, a new name is added to the National Organ Transplant List.

+ Approximately 100,000 people nationally – 2,500 regionally - are on the waiting list. More than 2,200 of them are children under the age of 18.

+ On average, 17 patients die every day while awaiting an organ--one person every 85 minutes.
+ Up to 30 individuals can be impacted by the organ

+ tissue donation of one donor
+ More than 46,000 corneal transplants are performed every year, returning the gift of sight to those who have lost their vision.

+ Nearly 900,000 tissue transplants are performed every year, greatly enhancing the quality of life for recipients.


DonateLife Northwest

Oregon Health & Science University

Where Healing, Teaching, & Discovery Come Together

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Niina's Story : A Daughter, Mother, Sister & Wife's Reflection

Words by Niina Salo

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Proverbs 31: 30 & 31

As I look over this past year it amazes me to think of all that has happened. Small things or rather common things like, Christmas, rearranging the furniture in my house, baking a pie and big things or once in a life time things like, Hadassah's 2nd birthday, the birth of our second daughter Kate and the moment my mom passed away just one year ago today. The memories, the changes and the growth that have occurred over this last year are tremendous.

There are so many specific times I remember. The Saturday before my mom past away Hadassah and I were down in Knappa visiting her and my dad. Mom wasn't feeling all that well but thought it best to just relax. I remember every hour or so she would get up and come out to the living room to play with Hadassah. She adored her. Hadassah was her first grandchild and she was elated to have a beautiful little girl running around the house. Two weeks after we were married, Shane and I became pregnant. I remember feeling sad that we wouldn't have much time to 'be married' before starting our family. As I look back today I believe God new exactly what he was doing. He wanted my mom to experience, on earth, the joy of having a grandchild. Hadassah brought her so much joy. I do believe today she is looking down from heaven and is experiencing perfect joy as she watches both Hadassah and Kate grow.

That Saturday night my dad took my mom into the emergency room. 3am Sunday morning we found out she had stomach cancer. I remember laying in bed crying, thinking, how was I going to clean out the basement, paint the house and get the pool up and running. How would all this get done with mom sick and at that moment, very distinctly God spoke into my life "be still and know that I am God." I almost jumped at the sound of His voice. God had spoken to me in the midst of my pain and grief. This would not be the last time God would speak to me over the coming months.

The next morning we drove in to see mom. I remember walking into her room and melting into tears as I saw my strong, rock of a mother lay there. She grabbed my hand and said "this is where our faith comes in." Mom always spoke wisdom into the lives of others. Over the next day she, with little strength would remind me how she loved me, that she was proud of me and that God was going to work all things together. She was transported to St. V's in Portland. That Sunday night they prepared her for surgery, we had a chance to talk with her again. I can so vividly see Hadassah jumping up on the hospital bed and mom saying "I love you Hadassah" looking to Shane to tell him she loved him and was proud of him and then hugging me and telling me she loved me. Had I have known that would be the last time I would be in my mom's arms or that I would hear her voice I am not sure I would have let go.

Monday morning at 7:15 my mom went to be with her heavenly father. The pain, fear and loneliness that I felt all at that moment still, at times, overwhelm me. But along with those feelings are the feelings of peace, joy and the reassurance the one day we will walk together on streets of gold.

Several hours after my mom passed away, my aunt Rita's mother also passed away. Aunt Rita tells me of a vision she had. My mom was standing there, in heaven saying "welcome Addy". That would have been my mom. I find so much joy in thinking of my mom in heaven with my grandma Salo, with Addy and so many others. I believe they are preparing that feast that is talked about in God's word. They are helping Christ prepare a place for us.

My mom taught me so much about life and a relationship with Christ. She was the ultimate host. She loved having people into her home. She welcomed anyone with opens arms. Every holiday was open to anyone we knew who may not have a family or a home to go to. She taught me the importance of being a help mate and the privilege of being a parent. I remember over the 30 years seeing my mom on her knees lifting her children and her husband up before the Lord. She loved her children and to her last breath she was selflessly thinking and caring for them.

As I think of what I have learned or how I have grown over this past year two things stand out in my mind. The peace that Christ brings and the importance of family. Moment by moment, through grief, pain, fear, joy, sadness, happiness and every other emotion I feel I also feel Christ right by my side. His word has spoken into my life over this year. Sunday night my mom was in surgery and Pastor Scott Gilchrist was sitting with us at the hospital, I remember the blanket of peace that lay over me as he read these words from the book of Psalms;

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such Knowledge is to wonderful for me,
to lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become the night around me,
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day.
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the
depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them
they would out number the gains of sand
when I awake, I am still with you.
Psalm 139:1-18

Over this last year I have grown to love my family more everyday. Shane has been a refuge and a comfort to me as I grieve my mom's death. As my husband he encourages me daily, loves me and lifts me up before the Lord. He has been a rock and a leader in our home. God truly new what he was doing when he brought Shane and I together.

I am so blessed to have two little girls with spunk and a joy for life. On days when I feel overwhelmed by sadness I look at Kate or Hadassah and see the pure joy that radiates in a child. They comfort me with there laughter and their tears. Just weeks after my mom passed away Hadassah looked at me and said "I love you" for the first time. God knew I would need those words to sooth my hurting heart.

Since my mom's death Brenton, Lukas and Derek have become such good friends of mine. It sounds silly in a way to speak of my brothers as friends. But they have encouraged me, comforted me and shared grief with me. Each week we have 'family dinner' in order to continue being a close knit family. It's what my mom would have wanted. I believe she smiles each time she sees us together as a family.

As I sit here sipping my coffee, in my red cup (my mom loved the color red) I have such good memories of a loving mother, a devoted wife and a caring Mummu (grandmother). I will honor her by loving Christ, by nurturing my family and by putting others before myself. One day when we walk hand in hand I will tell her of the impact she made on my life and that of so many others. When I tell her these things she will point to Christ and Christ alone. For He was her rock.

I miss you, mom and I love you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Derek's Story : One Year Later

Words by Derek Salo

Death is a strange thing. One minute the most important person in your life is there, standing next to you, joking around with you, and the next they are gone, forever. It was Saturday July 21 last summer that we were packing up my apartment into the moving truck. That next morning I woke up to a phone call telling me that my mom had gone into the hospital early that morning from severe stomach pain where they discovered that she had cancer. It was later that Sunday night that I unknowingly hugged my mom and said, "I love you" for the last time. She passed away that next morning at 7:15.

It's been just over a year since my mother passed away from colon cancer and I still vividly remember every detail of that weekend. I remember that horrible feeling in my stomach the moment I found out that she had cancer, the moment we arrived and ran into the hospital, the way she hugged and kissed me for the last time, and the emptiness I felt that Monday morning as I sat there in the waiting room in shock, looking around watching the pain literally pour out of everyone, and seeing my mothers body lay there lifeless as they took off her wedding ring. These are the memories that haunt me day after day. It's the small things that I miss the most about my mom. The fact that my kids will never have Grandma Salo. Hearing my niece talk about my mom. The excitement I had to call her (sometimes 8 or 9 times) every day and share what I was going to do today. The support she never ceased to give me no matter what trial I faced. The coming home every couple weeks and walking in the door. There she was always standing with arms wide open saying "There's my sweetie." The proud look in her eye every time any of her kids accomplished anything. Laughing about Dave Chappelle skits together. Or just the simple talks we would have. None of this can ever be replaced but I know for a fact that she is with me at all times. Walking with me through everything, in my heart.

I've been told this past year that the normal grieving period is one year. It's big because you've gone through every day once without that person. As the one year anniversary approached I began to build it up in my mind as this huge day. Well, that day finally came, and then it passed, and then the next day I woke up and felt exactly the same. You don't see it until you lose somebody close to you but its funny how even the closest people to you begin to forget about everything. As the days pass it gets talked about less and less but there still isn't an hour that goes by that I don't think about and miss my mom. I cannot count the amount of times in the past year that I would have done anything to have somewhere to turn, somewhere to get away, someone to relate to.

I remember it was about six months after my mom passed away that I met Bryan. I was so thankful because he was the first person outside of my family who didn't sugarcoat anything. The first thing he said to me was, "You know what, it sucks doesn't it?" You have no idea how refreshing it was to hear this. As we got to know each other he told me about this vision he had to work with people who have gone through similar things. I remember just thinking to myself how amazing it would be to have something like this. Somewhere I could turn. Somewhere I could just go and hang out. Someone I could go talk to who would be real with me. The hardest thing about the grieving process is finding hope in things and getting excited about things. This would give me something that I could look forward to that would give me hope. After he told me this I couldn't get it off my mind and it was that next week that I realized that this is what I wanted to do with my life, use my own experiences to help people through the grieving process. To let people know that there is hope and that there is people who are going to be there for them. To give people a place to get away.

Over the next couple months I began to meet people every week who had similar experiences. It was eye opening seeing people who were hurting and struggling with the same things that I was. It has become clear to me that this vision must be carried out and that all of this must happen. We as humans don't have a choice, we're all going to deal with death at some point. It's the moment that you experience it that your going to have to ask yourself, "Where am I going to turn?"

Derek and his Mother at Graduation.