Nordic ski coach Jon Kreamelmeyer thanks Summit community for support after leg amputation
Nordic ski legend Jon Kreamelmeyer is thankful for the Summit County community, which he said contributed to saving his life recently.
“My wife, Claudia, and I want to send out a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the community in Summit County and the Nordic community,” Kreamelmeyer said. “I guarantee you that their prayers, medications, cards and well-being messages saved my life.”
The longtime Summit County resident, who is a member of the Paralympic Hall of Fame for his coaching from 1998 to 2006, is learning how to navigate life again after having his leg amputated in August, when an aneurysm dislodged from behind his knee and caused a debilitating blood clot.
Kreamelmeyer, who is 74 years old, was in the midst of Nordic ski training — in order to hopefully go to Canmore, Canada, in March to compete in the Masters World Cup — when he was experiencing pain in his leg. Kreamelmeyer said he first noticed the sensation last winter but didn’t think much about it because the pain would subside after exercise.
“As soon as I take off the ski boot or stop exercising or quit hiking, the pain would go away,” Kreamelmeyer said. “It was nothing, not a problem at all, so I wouldn’t think much about it.”
What Kreamelmeyer knows now is that the pain he was feeling was the precipice of the aneurysm behind his knee. In mid-August, the aneurysm broke loose, creating a blood clot that cut off the blood flow to his leg.
At the time, Kreamelmeyer had no idea he had a blood clot. In fact, he walked himself into the emergency room. The doctors took one look at his foot and immediately called Flight for Life to take him to Denver.
Kreamelmeyer was taken into surgery in Denver to amputate his leg. He would end up having a total of six surgeries in eight days.
He returned home after a successful amputation but was forced to return to Denver shortly thereafter as he battled pneumonia and what doctors believe is an autoimmune disease, spending three months in the hospital.
It was during this time when Kreamelmeyer needed the support of the Summit County community, and he received it.
All of the people who he has touched throughout his years as a teacher and coach were quick to offer their support, encouragement and love.
Summit Nordic Ski Club athletes — along with Olof and Whitney Hedberg, who coach the club — sent numerous cards over the past few months wishing Kreamelmeyer well or telling him they missed him. Kreamelmeyer said all the support made the challenges he was facing worth bearing.
“He’s like the Nordic grandfather of the county,” Whitney Hedberg said. “He’s very involved from the youngest kids to the master Nordic skiers in the area.”
Hedberg said without fail, Kreamelmeyer always comes out as the top-ranked coach among the young Summit Nordic skiers at the end of the season, which is why so many kids sent cards to support their beloved coach.
“He really cares for them in the most genuine way that I have ever encountered,” Hedberg said. “He is the most beloved coach. He is so loved.”
Kreamelmeyer also said some of his former para-athletes proved instrumental in helping him process living life with one leg.
“I knew the expectations of what you can and can’t do, but knowing it and living it are two different things,” Kreamelmeyer said. “Those guys would call me up and give me a lot of support and humor.”
Kreamelmeyer said he is honored to now be a part of that club after several years of coaching para-athletes.
Kreamelmeyer is doing much better now as he is exercising again and enjoying a lifestyle closer to normal, even going out shopping for Christmas gifts.
“Thanks again to the amazing people in Summit County, they raised some money in order to buy me a SkiErg,” Kreamelmeyer said about the fitness device. “I’ve been standing and double pulling every day for at least 30, 35 minutes, keeping it at a low heart rate. I also do a light weight program.”
Kreamelmeyer said a prosthetic is in the works so he can fulfill his plan of cross-country skiing sometime soon.
“All you can do is look forward,” Kreamelmeyer said. “It’s reality. Keep looking forward and keep going.”
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