Olympic Swimmer Michael Klim Reveals CIDP Diagnosis: 'My Health Began to 'Deteriorate Drastically'

Michael Klim detailed his crippling symptoms after being diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, an autoimmune disorder

Michael Klim attends Everest Race Day at Royal Randwick Racecourse on October 19, 2019 in Sydney, Australia.
Photo: Hanna Lassen/Getty

Australian Olympic swimmer Michael Klim is opening up about his recent health struggles in hopes of raising awareness for others in similar situations.

On Sunday, the athlete, 44, revealed in a blog post that more than two years ago he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder called chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP).

CIDP is a neurological disorder that causes progressive weakness and impaired sensory function in the legs and arms, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Klim said his symptoms mainly impact his legs and feet.

"In recent years I have neglected my health and wasn't honest with myself about the signs and symptoms my body was telling me," Klim wrote. "I have been dealing with chronic ankle problems and degenerative back issues for quite some time. Initially it was just the odd cramp or pain in my joints, but over time my symptoms started to progress."

Olympic Swimmer Michael Klim Shares His CIDP Diagnosis and “Drastically” Deteriorating Health
Michael Klim/Instagram

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He said that his health "spiraled out of control" and that he started experiencing severe muscle weakness in his legs that left him "unable to stand properly."

"My health began to deteriorate drastically," Klim said, noting that he eventually needed the help of his partner Michelle Owen and his three children Stella, 16, Frankie, 11 and Rocco, 14 — whom he shares with his ex-wife Lindy Rama — to get around as the "pain became unbearable."

Klim revealed that he was also in denial about his condition and struggling to accept the severity of his symptoms.

He went through numerous procedures — an ankle fusion operation, back operation, IVIG (intravenous Immunoglobulin) treatments to reduce the effects of the inflammatory condition, steroid treatments, and plasma replacement therapy — while trying to hold on to his athletic ability.

"​​I couldn't believe how the one thing that I identified with as integral to my identity – my strength, my athleticism - was being taken away from me and I couldn't do anything to stop it!"

Michael Klim competes in the Men's 100m Butterfly semi final on day six of the Australian Championships at Chandler Aquatic Centre on December 8, 2006 in Brisbane, Australia.
Bradley Kanaris/Getty

"Mentally I have tried to stay positive but there are times my motivation and beliefs is severely tested. I can no longer do the things I love and enjoy. My body is not the same," Klim added.

Klim, a 6-time Olympic medalist, said he's making progress learning to manage his CIDP through regular IVIG treatments. The swimmer admitted that although he originally kept his condition a secret, he wants his story to be an inspiration for others.

"I have started to see and feel some improvement in my everyday function and mobility," he said. "It is an ongoing and relentless process to try and manage this current condition with all my previous injuries."

"I wanted to share my story in hope that more research and awareness can be directed towards CIDP. It's hard accepting that my identity will no longer be reliant on my athletic ability," Klim continued. "I now need to find a new mindset and mental toughness to allow me to overcome and accept this new challenge. Sharing my journey is another part of this healing process and I would hope that it brings awareness to CIDP and resonates with people who may be going through similar challenges."

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