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!!!

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