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Michelle Owen has posted a moving tribute to her partner Michael Klim, after the Olympic champion revealed he had been diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disorder in 2020.
Klim took to The Project to discuss his diagnosis chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), which causes a progressive weakening and loss of feeling in the arms and legs.
The condition is caused by the body erroneously attacking fatty coverings protecting the body's nerves - in Klim's case, it has signifcantly weakened his legs.
The 44-year-old said he began noticing symptoms several years ago, including muscle wastage around his calves and increasing difficulty simply moving around.
Klim now relies on a cane to help him walk, having lost almost all the sensation in both of his feet.
sunriseon7: “It took me a while to process’
Swimming legend Michael Klim has seen his world change dramatically after a debilitating disorder left the former Olympian requiring a walking cane to assist him with even the most basic tasks. pic.twitter.com/sMFyUhDJEv
— I'm All News (@ImAllNews) July 10, 2022
In the wake of Klim publicly discussing his diagnosis for the first time, Owen took to Instagram to recognise the step he had made.
Jokingly referred to as Klim's 'human walking stick' by fellow Australian swimming legend Ian Thorpe, Owen said she was proud of how far he had come.
“I’m so proud of you @michaelklim1 for sharing your story and struggles with CIDP – an auto-immune disorder that attacks the nerves which affects either your arms or legs. In Michaels case it’s his legs and feet,” Owen wrote.
“It’s been a journey for all the family and friends. We hope in sharing this story it brings more awareness and research to find a cure.”
Klim, who won multiple Olympic gold medals as part of Australia's successful relay teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s, paid tribute to the support he had from Owens in the years leading up to and following his diagnosis with CIPD.
Michael Klim sheds light on devastating diagnosis
Klim spoke about collapsing in front of his children, as well as having to increasingly rely on his wife and other friends to aid him with some day to day tasks.
“In 2019 I started to get symptoms that I didn’t realise were connected to my diagnosis,” Klim said.
“I have been dealing with chronic ankle problems and degenerative back issues for quite some time and over the past few years, I noticed severe muscle wastage in my legs, difficulty with balance, some loss of function from the knees down, numbness in my thighs and feet, to the extent I was unable to stand.”
Klim said he had felt reluctant initially to publicly discuss his diagnosis, revealing the effect the condition has had on his body has caused him to feel depressed and occasionally frustrated.
He said that eventually he came to the realisation that he was better off being open about his condition, given he believes he now has an opportunity to raise more awareness of the disorder.
“Only recently I have started to share my story as it was getting harder to discuss my symptoms,” he said.
“We then came to find more people suffering from this condition. It made me realise that this rare condition might not be as rare as I think so I wanted to share my story in hope that more research can be directed towards CIDP.
“It’s hard accepting that my identity will no longer be reliant on my athletic ability. 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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