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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Two months before he died of heart failure on Oct.10, Christopher Reeve was interviewed for this edition of The Power of Caring.

Christopher Reeve became a movie star playing the strapping Superman, vulnerable only to Kryptonite. So the difference between fanstasy and reality could not have been starker when, in 1995, Reeve broke his neck in a horseriding accident. He was paralyzed below his shoulders and faced doctor's grim forecasts that he'd likely never regain any movement.

He defied that prognosis and through the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation (CRPF), became a different kind of Hero. Until his death at age of 52, Reeve put his private battle in the public eye. By devoting himself to overhauling the status quo within the field of paralysis treatment, he helped those who faced similar challenges but lacked his resources. "We were galvanized by him in life," CRPF president Kathy Lewis says, " and now we rededicate ourselves to his mission."

While lobbying for increased research funding, Reeve urged scientists to think boldly and collaboratively as they discovered new ways to help patients, both immediately after injury and in rehabilitation. Researchers marveled at how well-versed Reeve was on spinal cord trauma. "He energized young scientists and brought a wealth of new ideas and approaches to the field," says Oswald Steward, chair of CRPF's scientific advisory council.

The results stirred Reeve's hopes. "If the goal is to stop paralysis or reverse it," he said, "to give people as much normalcy as possible, there's tremendous progress being made."

Reeve chaired the board of CRPF, which aids independent projects and also has created a consortium to share research successes and failures. Worthy studies abound; CRPF will receive 250 proposals this year and can fund only 15% of them. In all, the foundation has distributed $48million in research grant funding since its inception. CRPF also runs a paralysis resource center and funds quality of life initiative chosen by a committee Reeve's wife, Dana ,heads.

Beginning his own rigorous rehab program in 2000, Reeve used aqua theraphy, exercise bike sessions and electric stimulation to work his muscles. He eventually could open and close his arms and move his legs when lying down or in a pool. He could also feel sensation over 70% of his body, as opposed to 12% when he was first injured.

Reeve covered vast ground physically and emotionally, thanks to his indomitable will and his partnership with Dana. When talking to people who had been recently paralyzed, those who felt hopelessness closing in, he would counsel patience while describing advances and possibilities. "I'm not lying," he said. "You can't call up somebody in depths of despair and feed them lies.That would be the ultimate act of cruelty." In fact, with his superhuman efforts, he sent a message that was just the opposit.----ALEC MORRISON.

(for more information or to contribute: Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, 500 Morris Ave., Springfield, New Jersey (800) 225-0292; ChristopherReeve.org/caring.
posted by infraternam meam @ 11:09 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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