More than a year after he was diagnosed with Stage 4 renal cancer, Riverside Police Officer Chris Kudla decided that as of April 18 he was no longer physically able to work. On April 22, the Riverside Police Pension Board approved his application for non-duty related disability, which will pay him half of his salary as taxable income.
Village Manager Jessica Frances said Kudla is supplementing his income by using sick time donated to him by fellow Riverside employees in the past year. Riverside police officers, public works staff and other village employees have donated roughly six months of their own sick time for Kudla to use.
In addition, the village continues to pay its share of Kudla’s health insurance premiums in accordance with the Family Medical Leave Act. However, those payments will cease at the end of August, leaving Kudla to pay 100 percent of health insurance premiums after that.
More than 440 people have donated a total of about $46,000 to his GoFundMe account (www.gofundme.com/believe-chris-kudlas-medical-fund) to help Kudla and his family deal with his expensive, ongoing medical care.
“This is the most unusual situation,” said Police Chief Thomas Weitzel. “I’ve never faced a situation like this before, and a lot of it fell to the Police Pension Board.”
Kudla did not respond to requests for comment from the Landmark.
He has updated well-wishers on his battle with cancer through posts on the GoFundMe page set up by his sister in December 2017, after Kudla was diagnosed. He and his wife, Tricia, have two daughters.
While most of the posts detail Kudla’s experiences with treatment, family matters and thanks for the support of friends and others, more recent ones have complained about his efforts to reach agreement on the terms of his disability pension and health insurance coverage.
Those posts were written while that process was unfolding. Final terms have now been determined. Tricia Kudla posted the most recent update on May 19, saying that while Chris was recovering well from shoulder surgery in April, he was expected to immediately restart chemotherapy.
“I hope now that the process is complete that he is happy with the outcome [regarding disability pay and benefits],” Frances said. “I hope he feels we’ve supported him though the process, fully recognizing it’s been challenging. He’s done phenomenal, staying on the job for so long after his diagnosis.”
Since being diagnosed with cancer in late 2017, Kudla had stayed on the job, working his regular 3 to 11 p.m. shift.
“He’s been a fantastic officer,” said Weitzel. “When he showed up to work, he worked his full shift and always had a good attitude. I can’t say enough positive things about Officer Kudla’s attitude and demeanor.”
Kudla, 47, was hired by the Riverside Police Department in March 2017 after a brief stint as a police officer in southwest suburban Montgomery. Prior to that, he worked for more than a decade as a police officer in Lyons, prior to a wave of police layoffs in 2014.