Chris Egert shares an important story of resilience and determination.
A morning news anchor for KSTP-TV, Chris Egert is also the co-host of the station’s Minnesota Live, its 9 a.m. lifestyle show. An Edward R. Murrow award-winning reporter, who has received multiple Emmy awards for his work covering the people of Minnesota and western Wisconsin, Egert has been with the station since 2012. He lives in Minnetonka with his wife, Kate; son, Dakota (high school junior); and daughter, Delaney (high school freshman).
Egert grew up in Armour, South Dakota, a town of just over 600 folks that sits 90 miles west of Sioux Falls. And, as so many kids do in small towns, he participated in sports—lots of them—baseball, basketball, football and track. And when he wasn’t playing one of them, he was likely watching a game from the stands, as he was one day in a local gym.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Egert says. “We were watching a high school basketball game, and I was jumping down the stairs of the arena when I landed the wrong way on [my ankle],” he says. “This would be the first of many, many severe sprains on the left foot.”
Athletes, regardless of their level of play, are used to enduring some degree of injury, but this was different. With no identifiable cause of the sprains, Egert’s mother and stepfather pressed forward to find a resolution or at least a remedy. “As a competitive athlete in junior high, high school and college [He played basketball at Huron University in South Dakota], there were many bumps, bruises and breaks along the way, but those ankle sprains were the hardest to recover from,” he says.
It’s no wonder that recovery was hindered given the sheer number of sprains that Egert experienced. What was the final count? There were “far too many to remember,” he says. By the time he was a senior in college, “… the doctor told me my mobility and pain level was comparable to the arthritis of an 80-year-old man,” he says.
After that assessment, it’s not surprising that Egert faced surgery. “[I] had my first surgery as an adult living in western South Dakota in Rapid City and had additional surgeries in almost every TV news market I worked in—Omaha, Seattle and then here in the Twin Cities,” he says.
How many surgeries? He can’t say. There have been at least 13, but Egert stopped counting after that, “because I kept thinking it would be a ‘lucky 13’—it was not,” he says.
The next course of action was a total ankle replacement. “During a revision surgery to the total ankle replacement, I developed an infection, so there were several procedures after that to try and remedy the infection,” Egert says. “The ‘best’ of all remaining bad options was to amputate the left foot. Otherwise, I was facing several more surgeries, with no guarantee of success.” That was in 2017.
For the most part, the surgery left Egert in a better place, but better doesn’t equate to perfect. “Medical advancements in prosthetics have been amazing, but even the best engineering doesn’t make it comfortable,” he says. “Snow and ice are very dangerous, as are stairs and uneven surfaces. And things like taking a shower and going to the restroom at night are also very challenging because you don’t sleep with your prosthetic on.”
Egert deals with phantom limb pain and had scheduled surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester to help alleviate the chronic discomfort. However, he cancelled it because of COVID-19. “I may consider it again someday, but [I] will just live with it for now,” he says.
Leveling up people’s understanding of what those living with limb loss, like Egert, must undertake on a daily basis is a goal for April’s National Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month. It’s a mission that Egert understands.
“I think folks can be distracted by the cool looking mechanics of prosthetic hands, feet and legs, and not really appreciate how much it takes for the people wearing them to function,” Egert says. “It is a lot of work, it is not comfortable and in no way does this mechanical limb replace the real thing. Thank God they can do what they do, but I hope people realize the courage it takes to get out of bed every day for people who experience extreme mobility challenges.”
Going through an intense and prolonged health challenge can test one’s physical and mental mettle. Hopefully, the process moves to reveal fresh layers of grit, empathy and understanding.
“I have a much greater understanding of what people with mobility issues deal with every moment of every day,” Egert says. Add in dealing with it all while working in the public eye. Then what?
“[I] never intended to say anything about it to anyone, but my managers at KSTP thought it would be a good idea to let our viewers know what was happening with me,” he says. “Since sharing my story, I’ve been contacted by hundreds of people and consulted dozens of others [about] what the amputation journey entails. It is pretty humbling to hear from people, who said their life has been changed just because I shared my story.”
To mark this month’s National Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month, the Limb Preservation Foundation is hosting Physician and Patient Perspective on Limb Loss and Limb Difference on April 29 at the University of Denver. Nine speaker panels will present on a host of topic areas, including coping with and overcoming trauma, innovations, long-term concerns, mobility, osseointegration, wound healing and more.
Registration information is available at limbpreservation.org. For those unable to attend, information from the event will be available online.
“It all makes a difference …”
Working in television broadcasting often requires time spent away from the TV cameras in the name of shooting in-the-field pieces, participating in station promotions, attending community events and the like. It’s a lot. Add in being the parents of two teenagers, and it’s easy to see that Egert and Kate, who works at the Minnetonka Community Center, have a lot on their proverbial plates. But that doesn’t preclude them from giving back to the community in innumerable ways.
Wiggle Your Toes (WYT) is one of the benefactors of Egert’s time. Its mission is clear: “To empower those who have lost a limb to move forward, take action and get back to the life they want.”
Aaron Holm, founder and executive director, is a double leg amputee since 2007. He started WYT from his hospital bed. “[WYT] helps those who help themselves, and [Egert] is an exemplary model,” Holm says. “He made an incredible decision to have his lower leg removed after living [for] years in pain and discomfort. Post limb loss, he is excelling at life—time with family, career and community—exactly what we strive for.”
“The really cool thing about [WYT] is that they are really a network of people, other amputees who have so much knowledge to share about the journey,” Egert says. “When I was in the hospital bed, only a day or two out from my amputation, someone from [WYT] came into my room, and we talked. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to return the favor to others who have had amputations or are facing amputations, sometimes by visiting their hospital beds, meeting them in person before their surgery, jumping on a video call with them or by simply sending a text from time to time to check in. I’m also trying to help them with overall awareness by using my platform at KSTP-TV to help spread the word about the great work they are doing.”
Holm recognizes the importance of Egert’s efforts in setting an example of “what is possible post limb loss,” he says. “Seeing is believing, and he allows the community that we support see what is possible firsthand. He also builds awareness around limb loss and the people living with a limb deficiency.”
Those living with limb loss aren’t the only ones in need of support. “Family members and loved ones are impacted greatly by having someone in their lives experience limb loss. [WYT] has been a very valuable resource for them as well,” Egert says.
The Egerts also volunteer with the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). “Our son is a Type 1 diabetic, so we’ve worked for years with them to help in their efforts to find a cure,” Egert says. “Some diabetics also face the possibility of amputation, so it is extremely important for me to work with the diabetic community to [help] people avoid ever having to make the decision to amputate a limb.”
Being of service is important to the Egerts. “We have been blessed beyond belief with good family, friends and fortune, so it has always been extremely important for us to do what we can to help others,” Egert says. “It all makes a difference—even the teeny tiny things.”