News / USA

Olympic Transplant Recipient Promotes Organ Donation

US parallel giant slalom snowboarder Chris Klug
US parallel giant slalom snowboarder Chris Klug

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Parke Brewer

United States parallel giant slalom snowboarder Chris Klug has more than just a desire to win an Olympic medal in Vancouver. He also is spreading the word about the need for organ donors, as he himself is a transplant recipient.  

American Chris Klug is by no means your typical Olympic snowboarder. In fact, he's not your typical recreational snowboarder either.

In a sport that is mostly popular with a younger generation, Klug is 37-years-old and is married. He is also much bigger than your typical snowboarder, standing 1.91 meters tall and weighing more than 100 kilograms.

Klug has been snowboarding since 1983, before most of his competitors were even born. He finished sixth in the giant slalom event when snowboarding made its debut at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. He is now is ready to compete in his third Olympics.

"You know, I was an avid skateboarder as a kid," Klug said. "I had a big half-pipe in my backyard and that's what kind of drew me to snowboarding initially. I looked and I said, hey, that's skateboarding on snow. That's perfect for me."

And he's still at it 27 years later in a career that has included not only injuries like a broken collar bone, broken ankles and torn knee ligaments, but also a liver transplant. In fact, Chris Klug was the first athlete to win an Olympic medal after undergoing a major organ transplant. He received a new liver less than two years before winning a snowboarding bronze medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

In the early 1990s, Klug had been diagnosed with a rare disease known as Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), a rare degenerative liver condition that requires a transplant.

It is the same disease that caused the death a decade ago of former star National Football League running back Walter Payton.

Klug was on the transplant waiting list for six years, and during that time he was out care-free, riding his snowboard, playing and training hard. But his health took a turn for the worse in early 2000 and he needed to get serious about being upgraded on the list. He told VOA it was a scary time in his life.

"You know you're hoping and praying for a second chance and not really knowing what your future holds. It's not like all the orthopedic injuries I've had where you go get an MRI or an X-ray and you get it fixed. You've got to hope and hang out and pray for a second chance," the snowboarder said.

Klug got that second chance and remembers it well. It came July 28 in 2000, when a young boy died in a gunshot accident and his parents decided to donate his organs. Klug was the recipient of the boy's liver, and three others also received his organs.

It was during that critical waiting period 10 years ago that Klug decided if he pulled through, he would do everything in his power to help others going through the same thing.

"When I was on the waiting list in 2000, there were 84,000 people in the U.S. waiting for solid organ transplants, and about 15 died each day waiting. You know, at one point I thought I was going to be one of those 15," said Klug.

So in 2004, he started the Chris Klug Foundation with the goal of promoting life-saving donations and helping improve the quality of life for donors, recipients and transplant candidates.

"In 2009 we hosted 75 events around the country – [called] Donor Dudes events – which is a program that we started on high school and college campuses, really to promote donation and encourage young people to share their decision and make sure they know the facts about donation," he added.

Klug held another Donor Dudes event at the recent Winter X Games which were held this year in his hometown of Aspen, Colorado.

Chris Klug has had other challenges in his career. He believes he was wrongly denied a place on the 2006 U.S. Olympic team for the Turin Winter Games. And even though he won at the national championships last year, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association decided not to fund him anymore. So he formed his own team with three others and solicited his own sponsors. And he successfully made it through qualifying this season to make it on the U.S. Team for Vancouver.  

On Saturday, Klug will compete in the men's parallel giant slalom snowboard event. He is fairly certain this is his final Olympics, so he has been relishing the experience. "That's been my mantra all season, just enjoy the ride. Mainly partly because of knowing this is probably my last competitive season, and then maybe for missing out in 2006, you know I really wanted to savor every moment in this," said Klug.

Chris Klug, who takes anti-rejection drugs, says he is stronger than he was before his liver transplant. He is currently 15th in the World Cup standings and the veteran snowboarder said he feels confident he can be in the running for an Olympic medal.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid