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Saturday, February 16, 2002
Klug's triumph keeps memory of 13-year-old alive

Associated Press

COEUR d'ALENE, Idaho -- When snowboarder Chris Klug won the bronze medal in the parallel giant slalom at the Olympics in Salt Lake City, it was particularly special for Leisa Flood.

Flood's slain 13-year-old son was the organ donor for the liver that kept Klug, 29, alive.

Billy Flood was shot in the eye by a neighborhood friend in July 2000 while sitting in a chair at his grandmother's Westminster, Colo., home.

Billy the Kid, as his mother called him, was dead.

Tubes and machines kept Billy Flood's organs alive while his father and sisters drove from California. It upset Flood that nurses kept asking about organ donations. But then it hit her.

"I thought someone else was sitting in a room just like this, in this pain," Flood said. "It's what Billy would have wanted. He was a loving kid."

Flood lives in Coeur d'Alene and visits her son's grave in nearby Mullan every weekend.

Klug, from Bend, Ore., suffered from primary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare degenerative bile duct condition that killed football player Walter Payton. Just four months after the July 2000 transplant, Klug was back on the World Cup road.

Thursday, which happened to be National Organ Donor Day, Klug qualified for the finals and then reminded anyone who would listen that 16 people on the transplant list die every day waiting for organs to become available.

"I'm lucky to be here today," Klug said. "Without the gift of the donor family, I wouldn't be here today. They're the real heroes. I'm trying to get the message out."

He won his medal Friday.

Flood encourages people to become organ donors, before loved ones have to make that choice.

"Please reach beyond yourself and give the gift," she said. "Carry a donor card."

Flood has struggled since Billy's death. She got back together with husband Rob, but then left again. She moved to Coeur d'Alene to be near her family in the Silver Valley and Billy's grave.

She enrolled in an iron workers apprentice program so she could build bridges, which was Billy's dream. She suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome and sees a counselor regularly.

She didn't even know Klug had made it to the Olympics until a Los Angeles Times reporter called her this month.

She got a thank-you letter from Klug, but has yet to meet the boarder.

"It just takes so much to deal with it," she said. "Everything opens the wound."

But now she's watching.

"Billy always wanted to learn how to snowboard," Flood said. "He wanted a snowboard and the Oakley glasses but we never had the money."