Being an Olympic Swimming Legend Doesn’t Ease the Burden of Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy


After winning the 1998 100m butterfly in Perth, breaking a world record, winning 54 international medals, and becoming the Swimming Hall of Fame inductee in 2022, Michael Klim appeared to be invincible.

However, in 2020 Michael was diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. In speaking to startsat60, he readily admits that it was not easy to accept the diagnosis.

During the initial phase of his disease, Michael admits to not taking care of himself. He ate junk food, drank too much, and generally neglected his care.

Michael describes a time when he did not completely give up, but those close to him knew he was not fighting the disease either. He acknowledged the possibility of one day being completely wheelchair-bound.

In July of 2022 Michael went public and discussed CIDP in his blog. He had come to terms with the realities of this rare neurological disease. That year he faced the disorder head-on and dealt openly with its painful ankle and back issues. Michael went public and discussed CIDP in his blog.

Many people were under the impression that having the grit to win a World Championship would ease Michael’s CIDP burden. They were wrong.

In an earlier issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, Michael explained that after his diagnosis he began a ‘grieving process’. He said that accepting his CIDP was difficult both mentally and physically, but he is grateful that he can still swim.

Emotionally, he is on a better path now. In his role as an entrepreneur, he is careful not to take on an extra workload. He explains that if he overworks and gets fatigued, he really ‘hits the wall.’

His health has deteriorated drastically. He is unable to walk unaided and relies on his partner and children to assist him. He falls frequently. He began intravenous immunoglobulin treatment to reduce the inflammation attacking his immune system.

Michael is experiencing severe muscle wastage in his legs and loss of sensation in his feet. He has been fitted with orthotics and various braces in accordance with his planned activity.

Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune cells incorrectly target healthy tissues. The patient experiences intense inflammation resulting in rash, fever, and joint swelling. There is no cure.

Raising Awareness

In addition to the planned foundation to raise funds for CIDP research, Michael has been taking every opportunity to make people aware of the disease. Michael and his partner org Brainwave are organizing Brainwave’s Klim Swim Challenge.

The challenge to Australians is to collectively swim 34,000 kilometers (21,127 miles) before the end of March 2023. The funds raised will go to children with brain disorders including CIDP.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

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