As part of CKF’s Patient Ambassador Program, our Patient Ambassador Webinar Series is a way to reach a wider audience and to ensure we’re connecting with this audience (viewers and supporters, like you!) in a safe, efficient way.
Organ transplantation is a major surgery and takes a gigantic toll on a person’s physical and mental health. That said, when we think of transplant, we tend to think only of those who are sick and require the lifesaving operation. We tend to overlook the ones closest to those awaiting transplant—the patient’s family members and friends—who provide constant support, care, and attention and, one might argue, are lifesavers themselves. Caregivers play a crucial role before, during, and after the transplant process.
This month, CKF is hosting a Caring for Caregivers webinar, where we’ll be speaking with caregivers of transplant recipients who have navigated the transplant process alongside their loved ones, provided support in times of need, and are using their experiences to help others within the transplant community. Topics covered in this webinar will include:
Missy Klug is the wife and former caregiver of liver transplant recipient and Olympic snowboarder, Chris Klug. Missy was dating Chris when he was placed on the transplant waitlist. after being diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) in 1991. She rode out the wait with him and encouraged him as he continued his training in snowboard racing in preparation for his first Olympic Games in 1998. Missy stayed by Chris’ side and remained optimistic as his health deteriorated to a critical stage. After finally receiving his lifesaving liver transplant in 2000, Missy made sure Chris made a quick, but healthy, return to snowboard racing. In 2002, Missy—along with Chris’ family and the family of his deceased donor—watched as Chris won a Bronze medal at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games.
Since Chris founded the Chris Klug Foundation (CKF) in 2003, Missy has eagerly volunteered her time to the organization to promote awareness of organ, eye, and tissue donation. Today, she serves as Treasurer of the organization. Chris and Missy currently live in Aspen, CO, with their two kids, Bali (10) and River (7). Missy works primarily as an Adolescent Counselor, working with local youth in Aspen. Like her husband, Missy leads an active lifestyle through skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, and hiking. She has known Chris for over 30 years.
Noah Keefer has been a caregiver and patient advocate for his wife, Valen, for the past 14 years. Together, they have navigated Valen’s battles with epilepsy, back surgery, kidney disease, kidney transplant, multiple bouts of sepsis, and liver transplant. Noah became involved with the Chris Klug Foundation (CKF) when he nominated Valen for CKF’s Bounce Back Give Back Award in 2017. Valen was awarded the 2017 Award later that year and Noah has continued advocating for transplant and organ donation since then.
Most recently, Noah spoke on behalf of CKF at Rady Children’s Hospital and Scripps Green Hospital Center for Organ Transplant in San Diego, CA, where he shared his experiences as Valen’s caregiver during her multiple transplants. Noah is a service operations supervisor working in biotech, where he feels he can contribute to the care of patients today and the cures of tomorrow.
Kim Hinsley is the wife and former caregiver of liver transplant recipient, Brian Hinsley. Kim and Brian have been married for 24 years. When they tied the knot, Brian was jaundiced and already showing signs of liver failure due to his ongoing battle with autoimmune hepatitis. They had also just found out that Kim was pregnant with their daughter, Megan. Brian continued working as a firefighter and paramedic while his disease got worse and Kim cared for Brian through a rollercoaster of intense physical and mental symptoms, from excess fluid in his stomach to confusion and disorientation. She accompanied him to all of his hospital visits and was by his side when he got the call that he was going to be taken off the job due to his declining health.
Brian was on the transplant waitlist for over two years. During this wait, a film crew reached out to them and requested to film a documentary about their relationship and transplant journey together. The film, produced by the Department of Health and Human Services, is called “No Greater Love” and emphasizes the need for organ donation in the U.S. After Brian’s transplant, he became the first firefighter/paramedic ever to return to the line of duty after receiving an organ transplant. Today, Brian and Kim are both retired and live in North Carolina with their daughter, Megan. Although she doesn’t consider herself to be Brian’s caregiver anymore, Kim fondly refers to herself as her husband’s “care partner” instead.