Michael Klim was traveling three years ago when he felt like something within his body was wrong. The Polish-born swimmer, who has won two gold medals for Australia while participating in the Olympics, was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia when his legs gave out from underneath him. Prior to this moment, Klim had experienced some other symptoms here and there: muscle wasting in his calves, stiffness, and difficulty moving. But by the time he called his girlfriend Michelle Owen, Klim realized that his legs were unable to hold him up. According to an article an article at MSN and ABC Health, he was diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP).
As an accomplished athlete and world record holder, this diagnosis was frightening for Klim. It was also sometimes uncomfortable when his symptoms, such as frequent tripping and falling, occurred in front of his children.
Since his diagnosis, Klim shares in the article, he has had to cope with a great deal of both physical and mental stress. He is no longer able to feel any sensations in his feet, currently uses mobility assistance and says he may one day require a wheelchair. Since his diagnosis, Klim has also undergone back surgery to relive nerve compression and must travel for immunoglobin replacement therapy, which often takes a great deal of time.
At the same time, Klim says in the article that his friends and family have been wonderful support systems. He states that the mental toll of managing a rare condition can be immense and that, sometimes, people believe that he will be fine since he has competed in the Olympics. Klim wants to make it clear that the mental toll can still sometimes be overwhelming. He wants those who are going through a similar situation to know they are not alone.
Read more about Klim and his journey through diagnosis over at MSN.
About Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP)
Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) is a rare neurological disorder in which the nerve roots and peripheral nerves become inflamed. Additionally, CIDP is characterized by myelin sheath destruction. Myelin sheaths are the protective coating of nerve cells. Therefore, myelin destruction can cause nerve damage and inhibit nerve signal communication. While the underlying cause of CIDP is still unknown, many believe it to be an autoimmune disease – a condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body. CIDP is twice as common in males than females. The condition may also be more common in those aged 50+. Symptoms and characteristics can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Abnormal or uncoordinated movement
- Voice changes, such as hoarseness or slurred speech
- Reduced or absent deep tendon reflexes
- Weakness or lack of feeling in the feet, which may cause difficulty walking
- Difficulty using the arms, hands, legs, or feet due to muscle weakness
- Changes in sensation, such as numbness, sensation loss, burning, tingling, or pain