Christopher Reeve once reasoned that if man could walk on the
moon, why couldn't people with paralysis walk again?
“Just a few short years ago, the notion of the two million
people worldwide living with paralysis, getting out of their
wheelchairs and walking again seemed about as practical as walking
on the cratered surface of the moon did four decades ago,” he
wrote on his Web site July 5, 2001. “But today, in this new
millennium, we know that it IS going to happen, and it's only a
matter of when.”
Although the actor and disability advocate never realized his
dream, his message gave hope to others who dream of one day leaving
Before the 52-year-old Reeve died last month of heart failure,
reportedly brought on by complications from a pressure wound, he
tirelessly promoted research to find a cure.
“He was the best advocate for the physically challenged in
the country,” says Graham-Field vice president of corporate
accounts Ray Ganz, who first met Reeve nine years ago while working
for Gateway to a Cure, a St. Louis-based organization that promotes
spinal cord research. Reeve headlined several fund-raisers for the
organization, and the two developed a friendship.
Ganz' company at the time, Everest & Jennings (now a
division of Graham-Field), made Reeve's first wheelchair shortly
after the 1995 equestrian accident that left him paralyzed below
“He never lost his sense of humor,” says Ganz.
“Under the circumstances he was such a warm and caring
person. He never sang the blues. He was so committed to finding a
Shortly after the accident, the Superman star was not so
optimistic. After fighting for his life — at the time doctors
only gave him a 50 percent chance of survival — Reeve
admitted that he considered ending it. But with the tenacity of the
hero he portrayed years earlier on the big screen, Reeve
courageously battled his disability and brought attention to issues
facing people with paralysis.
Research became the focus of Reeve's life as he teamed up with
the American Paralysis Foundation in 1999 to form the Christopher
Reeve Paralysis Foundation, which funds research to develop
treatments and cures for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury and
other central nervous system disorders.
Reeve kept up a vigorous program, exercising for several hours
each day, and in 2000 showed slight progress by regaining movement
of an index finger. He regained some sensation in other parts of
his body with the help of electrical stimulation, and he underwent
experimental surgery that allowed him to breath for hours at a time
without a ventilator.
“Learning to live with paralysis is a tremendous
adjustment, but now there is every reason to believe it'll be a
temporary one,” Reeve wrote on his Web site.
After his accident, Reeve continued to work in television and
the movies, both on and off the screen. The latest project that he
directed, “The Brooke Ellison Story,” portrays the
story of a woman who became quadriplegic at the age of 11, then
went on to graduate from Harvard. The television movie was
scheduled to debut Oct. 25 on A&E.
“Christopher was a hero to many people, yet he always said
it was the ordinary people living with disability who were truly
extraordinary,” said Kathy Lewis, president and CEO of the
Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. “He will be missed
for his life, his work, his passion and his ceaseless courage in
the face of adversity that brought hope to millions around the
Ganz remembers that when he took Reeve to Rams and Cardinals
games in St. Louis, Reeve seemed to be the star around the
athletes. “The players would come up to him and give him
autographs, balls and jerseys,” he said. “He just
For more information on the Christopher Reeve Paralysis
Foundation, visit target="_blank">www.christopherreeve.org or the Christopher
& Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center at www.paralysis.org.