Invictus Profile: Cpl (Retd) Chris Klodt
It turns out that the impending birth of a baby and a lesser-known sport nicknamed ‘murderball’ can go a long way when it comes to rehabilitating from a broken spine.
That’s how it was for Corporal (Retired) Chris Klodt, who was six months into a deployment in Afghanistan in 2006 with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry when he was shot in the neck, shattering two vertebrae.
“We were on patrol in the Panjwai district when we were suddenly ambushed and I was hit. That moment changed everything for me, though I have no memory of it. My injury left me a C6 quadriplegic. I have no hand or leg function, limited arm function, and no sensation below my chest,” explains the Hamilton, Ontario resident.
The rehab was long and difficult, and Chris often became frustrated during his recovery. But Chris considers himself lucky, because he had the gift of extra motivation when it came to his rehabilitation.
“During those first, difficult moments my wife, Deena, was pregnant and due in two months—I was about to become a first-time dad. Also, a therapist brought me a copy of Murderball, a documentary about wheelchair rugby for quadriplegics. Seeing the passion and strength of those athletes, I knew that someday, I had to try that sport.”
The baby, a son named Jonathan, arrived on schedule. The ‘murderball’ sport, officially called wheelchair rugby, was, however, overdue as far as Chris was concerned. It required a ‘push’ by Soldier On, a Canadian Armed Forces program that supports serving members and veterans to overcome their physical or mental health illness or injury through physical activity and sport.
“I spent a good year and a half looking for a wheelchair rugby team and wasn’t successful,” says Chris, who played “almost every sport” while growing up in Sudbury, Ontario.
After mastering the skills of dressing himself and maneuvering his wheelchair, Chris naturally turned to sports as his next challenge. In 2009, Chris attended a Soldier On event to try out wheelchair racing, all the while keeping wheelchair rugby in his sights. The track and field coach had a son who played wheelchair rugby and put him in touch with a team that Chris could join.
“Within a week of connecting with Soldier On, I had found a team,” says the athlete, who has played wheelchair rugby at the Ontario provincial level for the past five years. Chris was also awarded ‘Most Inspiring’ athlete at an International Military Sports Council track and field event in Germany in 2013.
Chris’ ties remain strong with Soldier On. He’s a member of Team Canada – Invictus Games 2017 and will be putting his wheelchair rugby skills to the test in Toronto, Ontario this September 23 to 30 at the Invictus Games. He will also be competing in athletics. Soldier On is managing and supporting Team Canada – Invictus Games 2017 and its 90 athletes and their coaches as they prepare for the international competition.
Chris’ life since 2006 has expanded to include a second son, named Cameron, making him a busy father. He says sport made this possible. “I was unable to do all my own care until I started playing rugby. So sports helped give me back my independence.”
For more information, visit the Team Canada at the Invictus Games – Toronto 2017 website.
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