This year marks the twelfth anniversary of the death of Christopher Reeve. Actor, director, and activist, Reeve passed due to complications associated with an infection beginning with a pressure sore that eventually lead to heart failure. He was 52 years old. Lately, it seems as if Death has declared open season on famous people. While tragic as any human loss, not all celebrity deaths reverberate the same. All matter to those who loved them, but some take on a life of their own. It is as if their life’s purpose takes possession of their death in order to carry that purpose on for years to come. That purpose, already adopted by so many, can now spread throughout the hearts of so many in the healthcare industry. Yes, we are still talking about Christopher Reeve, aren’t we? How does he continue to inform and inspire those of us who dedicate our lives to caring for others? What has he taught us about safety, spinal injury, paralysis and recovery? How do we look at one year of our life knowing what Christopher did with 52 of his?
Reeve was rendered a quadriplegic after an accident during an equestrian competition in 1995. He was thrown from his horse and landed on his head breaking the first and second cervical vertebrae at the base of his skull and damaging his spinal cord. He was wearing a helmet and protective vest at the time of the accident.
Reeve had no movement of his extremities, no spontaneous respiration, and required surgery to stabilize his spine and head. There are seven vertebrae in the neck, and any break in the first four, accompanied by a serious spinal cord injury, will cause severe impairment of breathing and quadriplegia.
Life after Injury
Reeve himself said, “I have the opportunity now to make sense of this accident. I believe that it’s what you do after a disaster that can give it meaning.” He went on to continue acting, directing, and producing movies and television after his injury; he also wrote and published several memoirs documenting his recovery, rehabilitation, and life.
Reeve and his wife, Dana, began the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation in 1999. The foundation is a national nonprofit organization which supports research to develop effective treatments and a cure for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury and other central nervous system disorders. Reeve became the face of paralysis and raised public awareness about the significance of medical research and the challenges facing those with disabilities. He also educated families about the importance of having adequate health and disability coverage. The foundation and its website continue to finance research programs that have resulted in unprecedented breakthroughs for the paralysis community. www.christopherreeve.org
Christopher Reeve is Superman. There’s really no need to get into the semantics, is there? Superman’s story has never been about the amazing powers. It’s about what he chooses to do with them, over and over again. Long before he even won the role, Christopher made amazing choices with his life. It really wasn’t a trait that appeared only after tragedy. What must be noted are the resources this extraordinary man ultimately had at his disposal, most obviously due to the global recognition of being Superman. As for those he has inspired, we create organizations such as AdvancedRM. AdvancedRM seeks out individuals without those resources and obtains them on their behalf, along with any services needed. This does require some ‘super’ abilities such as being able to traverse the disparate worlds of law, medicine, and insurance in order to achieve results. That is what we do. That is why we can strongly identify with the spirit of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Please visit our web site to learn more.