DENVER (July 28) Â? Olympic snowboarder Chris Klug (Aspen, CO) has facedhis share of challenges since he started snowboarding 17 years ago, butnone as serious as the medical challenge he has been dealing with forthe past several years.
Klug, 27, underwent a successful liver transplant Friday at theUniversity of Colorado Hospital. The procedure, performed in Denver byDr. Igal Kam, took just over six hours to complete. Klug was listed infair condition and was expected to spend up to 10 days in recovering atthe hospital, according to hospital officials. He also will spend up toeight weeks living in the Denver area to be close to the hospital andthe specialists who will monitor him and balance his anti-rejectionmedications.
“The surgery went very well,” said Kam, the Chief of Transplant Surgeryat University Hospital. “As always, the first 24-48 hours is a criticalobservation time for complications. Chris’ good physical condition willhelp him recover from this major abdominal surgery.”
“I’m feeling awesome,” Klug said from his hospital bed about four hoursafter the transplant. “It couldn’t have gone any better. I’m not gonnamiss a day this winter.”
More than five years ago during a routine physical, Klug said, he wasdiagnosed with a rare liver disease know as Primary SclerosingCholangitis (PSC). It is a disease of unknown causes that attacks thebile ducts within the liver. There is no predicting the condition andthere is no known source or cure. There are ways to manage the diseaseover a period of years, but eventually these measures lose theireffectiveness and a liver transplant must be performed before full liverfailure sets in. PSC occurs in approximately one out of 10,000 people inthe United States and afflicts mostly young men. Symptoms includejaundice, itching, general discomfort or ill feeling, loss of appetite,indigestion, enlarged liver and enlarged spleen.
Klug’s condition had worsened in the early part of June, and he waselevated to the highest level on the liver donor list. He and his familywaited in Aspen until they finally got the call from the hospital onThursday that the hospital had received a liver donor for Klug.
“I didn’t do anything to contract this disease,” said Klug. “But I cando a lot to recover quickly. The waiting was the hardest thing.”
“Even as his liver was going downhill, Chris remained in top physicalshape,” said his father, Warren. “He’s feeling strong and we’re lookingforward to a speedy recovery.”
As far as athletic resumes go, Klug’s is second to none. He just cameoff his most successful season to date, finishing as the top American onthe World Cup tour and winning the U.S. Championship in the giant slalom(he also won that title in ’98). He had several World Cup podiums duringthe ’00 season, which included a win in giant slalom in Berchtesgaden,Germany. He also added a bronze medal to his collection with a thirdplace finish in super G at the inaugural Winter Goodwill Games in LakePlacid, NY. Klug was the first American man named to the 1998 U.S.Olympic Snowboard Team and he finished sixth in giant slalom at theGames in Nagano. He won the slalom at the ’97 U.S. Open, which isconsidered the granddaddy of all snowboarding events.
Klug is a member of the U.S. Training Team. Klug’s major sponsorsinclude Burton, Bolle, Aspen and Dominator.
The University of Colorado Hospital is a major center for treatment ofliver diseases and for liver transplantation. University Hospital didthe first liver transplant in the United States 35 years ago and theirtrack record in transplant success is the best in the nation.
For more information on Klug’s transplant (and a photo of himwaterskiing the day before the surgery), log on to www.chrisklug.com. Hesaid he is planning on keeping a daily journal of his recovery and willpost it to the site each day.