Following incredible breakthroughs in recent years enabling paralysed people to walk again, the son of late actor Christopher Reeve has opened up about what his own father went through and how he would have reacted to the groundbreaking developments in spinal treatment.
Fans of the Superman actor will recall he was left quadriplegic in 1995 following a horse riding accident and was restricted to a wheel chair and portable ventilator for the rest of his life until he passed away in 2004.
Now, following news in September that a 29-year-old American man was able to walk again after being paralysed from the waist down in a freak snowmobile accident five years earlier, Matthew Reeve spoke to the Daily Mail about how his legendary father would have reacted to the groundbreaking development.
He explained that when his father was injured he was told he’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life and would never walk again.
“Nobody who is injured today should be told that because it’s not true,” Matthew told the Daily Mail. “Back then, a cure for spinal injury wasn’t thought to be a possibility but my father had great hope and worked relentlessly to raise money for research.”
Matthew explained that his father tried to prepare his body in case a cure came along and that with the help of carers, would use a pool and fixed bike to keep active. He thought physical activity was important for those living with spinal cord injuries and if developments in new research are to be believed, he was right.
He also strived to help others in a similar situation by creating the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. For years, has the organisation been dedicated to advancing quality of life for those who lose the ability to walk and discovering cures for spinal cord injuries through grants, information and advocacy. Matthew explained that several patients have been able to take steps and get out of their wheelchairs — something Christopher would have loved – and revealed the moment he found out his own father had been involved in an accident.
Living in London at the time, the then-15-year-old flew to the US as soon as he heard news of the accident and explained his father’s injury was so severe he required 24-hour care. He also detailed a series of other health issues that threatened his father’s life including medication that sent him into anaphylactic shock and depression. Still, he said the Street Smart star became the much-needed face to a community that didn’t have a voice.
Remarkably, Matthew said that despite being confined to a wheelchair, Christopher was able to teach his son and Matthew’s younger brother how to ride a bike and that he’d been surprised at how technology has played a role in spinal cord research.
Years after Christopher died of a heart failure following complications of a pressure ulcer, Matthew continues to work towards his father’s dream.
“People said he really was Superman but he emphasised that the ability to endure, the power to love, everyone has that,” Matthew concluded.
The foundation had invested close to US$141.64 million (AU$196.37 million, £110 million) over the years and is now investing in electrical stimulation that has helped others walk again.