Swimming legend Michael Klim has given a surprise update on his battle with a rare condition, revealing he can no longer travel to Australia due to his worsening condition.
Speaking to former Olympic teammate Brett Hawke on his popular podcast, Klim – who was diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) in 2020 – also confirmed he is under financial stress after stepping down from his role in his successful skin care line due to his illness.
The father-of-three revealed that his mobility is now so affected that he can no longer leave his adopted home in Bali and travel to Australia, as he previously did several times a year for both work and treatment.
Klim has opened up about his CIDP diagnosis from and revealed that he can no longer make his frequent trips to Australia
Michael Klim revealed his CIDP diagnosis in July and told Brett Hawke’s podcast this week that his condition is worsening and has moved from his feet to his knees
“Caught up with my girlfriend to discuss the journey since my CIDP diagnosis”, said Klim, seen here with Brett Hawke
“I’ve turned my focus to the swimming academy here in Bali and… we run a lot of camps and clinics,” said the 45-year-old.
‘I’ve kind of simplified my lifestyle just from that point of view.
‘I mean I used to make 20 return trips to Australia a year because of work and whatever.
“But for now it’s just physically… physically actually impossible because (for) myself getting around is not easy.”
Klim said he no longer works for Milk & Co. because of the demands his autoimmune disorder places on his physical and mental well-being.
Klim founded the skin care line back in 2008 and had maintained a sales and marketing position as well as primary stakeholder.
However, he says his inability to travel has meant he has had to step away from the day-to-day business – a factor that has added a new element of financial stress.
Michael Klim founded together with partner Michelle at Bali Milk & Co. in 2008 and helped the company grow to become a top seller both in Australia and overseas
“Look, it’s definitely put a stress on our finances and security because there’s an investment level for me,” Klim said in the podcast.
‘I stepped down from my role at Milk and Co. because of the physical strain it put on me, the flight back and forth and the stress too.
‘I was very hands on doing sales and marketing. (But) unless I could give myself a hundred percent, I wouldn’t do it.
‘So there are definitely a few things that I’ve done in the last 13 years that I’ve had to scale back a lot, and with that is an income level as well.’
And in another devastating blow, Klim also revealed that his original health insurance does not cover CIDP – a disorder characterized by increasing weakness and reduced sensory function in the legs and arms.
As a result, his treatment is now completely self-funded – another obstacle which, he says, has placed another level of financial burden on both him and his family.
Klim has now ‘pulled the focus’ to his home in Bali, where he runs a swimming academy
Klim at home in Bali with partner of three years Michelle Owen
“Yeah, it’s been pretty stressful,” he said.
‘Unfortunately, unless you have very good insurance, which unfortunately mine didn’t cover this disorder, everything is self-funded, so it’s put a lot of stress on everyone, I think.
‘I’ve had great support from the family, but it’s, well, it’s not easy.’
Klim initially revealed his shocking diagnosis back in July while appearing on The Project, explaining how he first started noticing symptoms, including numbness in his legs to loss of function in his feet in 2019.
Michael made his first admission about his CIDP diagnosis on The Project back in July
The 45-year-old big revealed he had been forced to rely on a walking stick and crutches to get around
The retired swimming great began treatment a year later, but was forced to confront the realities of the rare disorder – one of which is the possibility that he may eventually lose his ability to walk and have to rely on a wheelchair.
Speaking to Hawke this week, Klim revealed that the condition had worsened in recent months and that the original numbness in his feet had now moved to his calves and knees.
“Right now it’s kind of just at my knees,” Klim said, adding that he now wears leg braces in addition to using crutches and a walking stick to get around.
‘I had a big foot drop… my foot is just really floppy and can’t control my foot so I have to wear special braces called AFOs (ankle-foot orthoses) which hold my toes up, so I don’t trip over myself when using a walking stick or crutches.’
Klim shocked the nation when he revealed details of his autoimmune condition via his Instagram
Klim, who was one of Australia’s fiercest swimming competitors during his reign in the 1990s and 2000s, admits he now fears the worse – that he will eventually lose all his physical mobility.
“I think there’s definitely an element of fear in this because it’s the fear of the unknown that we’re always afraid of,” an emotional Klim said.
“So there are 30 percent of patients (who) end up in a wheelchair, and it’s just a matter of getting around. So it’s in the back of your mind.’
Despite his setbacks, the six-time Olympic medalist says he remains determined to fight CIDP and will continue to seek treatment from some of the best neurological experts in Australia and around the world, including the Mayo Clinic in the US, which is a leader in the treatment of the disorder.
Klim at her home in Bali with partner (L), daughter Stella, ex-partner Lindy Klim, her partner Adam Ellis and children Rocco (13), Frankie (11) and Goldie (3)
Klim continues to swim at his home base in Bali. Once a fierce competitor, the six-time Olympic medalist admits he now fears he will eventually lose all his physical mobility
Most importantly, he says, he is still able to do some pool activities and regularly does swim sessions using his upper body while holding a pool buoy between his legs.
“What gives me so much joy at the moment is that I can actually still jump in the pool and float around a bit,” Klim said.
‘I like to put the buoy in and punch out a few times and yeah, that’s kind of my happy place at the moment.’
A distraught Hawke – who also competed for Australia at two Olympics and now hosts the Inside With Brett Hawke podcast – appeared to reel from the conversation, telling his friend: ‘Oh man, I don’t even know where I’m going next. ‘
A multiple world champion and 21-time world record holder, Klim had a monumental impact on world swimming before his retirement in 2007.
Klim was one of world swimming’s superstars – a career that peaked at the 2000 Olympics
Klim, Thorpe, Ashley Callus and Chris Fydler moments after their famous 4x100m freestyle defeat to the US team
The highlight probably came with the Australian team’s gold medal-winning 4x100m freestyle relay performance at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, which remains one of the most iconic moments in sport.
Klim, Thorpe, Ashley Callus and Chris Fydler beat an outspoken American team who had said before the race they would ‘smash the Aussie team like guitars’.
A stunning comeback in the anchor leg by Thorpe guided them to victory and the side celebrated their gold by playing air guitars on the pool deck.