Christopher Reeve’s Dream Comes to Life

May 23, 2011

Producing Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour has been one of the great highlights of both my career and my life.  There is an entire chapter in Bringing Back The Old Hollywood that details that experience so today I am focused much more on the towering and courageous human legacy of Christopher Reeve himself.

After Chris’s tragic accident, he dedicated his life and all his resources to finding a way to heal  the kind of catastrophic spinal injury that he himself suffered. He was utterly convinced that he would someday walk again and that others would quite literally follow in his footsteps.

Sadly, Chris died before he could take those first steps but, by founding the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation,  he made sure that his dream would remain alive for others with catastrophic spinal injuries. Anyone who knew Chris after his accident saw how passionate he was about using every resource and contact at his disposal to somehow find a “cure.”

For all those reasons and more, I was beyond thrilled to read the following press release from his Foundation last Friday:

“Press Coverage of Epidural Stimulator Breakthough

On Thursday, May 19, 2011, the Lancet published a paper about research funded by the Reeve Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. The headline being: paraplegic man stands, steps with assistance and moves his legs after a voluntarily regimen of epidural spinal cord stimulation plus extensive locomotor training.”

Yes, that’s correct. As a direct result of funds from Chris’ Foundation and his dream, Rob Summers has been able to stand and take physical steps.

I  knew Chris well during the Somewhere in Time experience. Over the years after Somewhere in Time, we kept in touch from time to time and even discussed the possibility of me producing a film he would direct. After his accident, we connected again and actually identified a project that we wanted to do together. All this is explained in detail in Chapter 9 of my book.

What struck so much about Chris after his accident was not only his personal courage and passion but his single-minded dedication to helping all those who had suffered, and would suffer, catastrophic spinal injuries. It was quite simply his mission in life to manifest a breakthrough in that field and his Foundation’s participation in pioneering epidural spinal cord stimulation is the latest result of Chris’ mission.

I have said often that the man who played Superman actually became Superman after his accident by becoming an international symbol of courage and determination.

I’m sure that the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation will continue to make miraculous breakthroughs and that somewhere Chris and Dana are smiling. I invite you to join me today in pausing for a moment to remember them with love, respect, and gratitude.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Asha Hawkesworth May 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm

There is a gift in all things… He certainly made the most of it! Blessings to their dear son. It must be hard for him.

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Terry Herbert June 9, 2011 at 12:18 am

Thank you, Stephen, for sharing this exciting breakthrough, thanks in large part to the Reeve Foundation’s funding of research to help this man to take his first steps toward earning a new title other than paraplegic. It hit my consciousness a few years before Christopher Reeve’s accident made it national news.

A very special young actress, Crisi Stahl, played a lead role in a musical I co-wrote with her acting and singing. It went from local stage productions to a project to shoot it as an “indie” film. Less than two years later, this pretty, charismatic girl, now twelve years old, was paralyzed in a sledding accident. As she battled for her life, we used the musical which featured her, Kids’ Venture, to create such a media blitz that The Shepard’s Spinal Clinic waived their ban on out of state provider numbers and took her in. When she left the clinic one hundred days later, a local television station called her “the miracle girl” while the clinic was giving her a “Super Quad” award. I inwardly objected to the award’s name, because like Christopher Reeve, she never thought of herself as a “quad”. When she had first flown into the facility in a critical care aircraft, on her stretcher, she told a TV news reporter “I plan to walk again. That’s what I’m aiming for.”

Crisi Stahl, did start to get use of her hands and arms about the time she returned home from the clinic. She would be considered a paraplegic today with near normal use of her of her upper limbs.

Although, she tried hard in rehab to walk, she couldn’t quite accomplish this feat and has lived her life since in a wheel chair. Like Christopher, she has kept a positive outlet and has been an encouragement to many hundreds of others in the same situation. She completed her college education, married, and became an engineer. She has been super successful and has adapted well, but reading your blog, Stephen, gives me renewed hope, that Crisi, who is now thirty years old, will yet be able to walk again. Thank you for the encouragement.

Christopher Reeve was such an encouragement to Crisi and others like her. I agree, that he and his devoted wife, Dana, are watching all of this from a Somewhere In Heaven vantage point. They must be pleased at the Reeve Foundation’s potential to help change the lives of thousands in the future who are currently confined to a wheel chair. God bless.

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