Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Superman's Last Battle

In 1995 Christopher Reeve was in the prime of his life both personally and professionally. He was in his early forties and had every expectation of living a further four decades, of further building on a distinguished career, of growing old gracefully with his chosen partner and watching his grandchildren grow up. Then a cruel accident left him totally paralysed and denied him those most basic of hopes which we all so lightly take for granted.

Christopher later admitted that he contemplated suicide in those first dark days and who would blame him? What better example could those who argue for "death with dignity" demand than a once-active man dependent on a machine for his breath and on the hands of others for every bodily function? But Christopher chose to "fight the unbeatable" rather than to accept the unacceptable and, in the nine years that followed, he left an imprint on this world deeper than the previous forty could ever make.

In the years following his accident Christopher Reeve devoted his life to promoting research into the palliative and therapeutic treatment of paralysis. His considerable fame and personal resources were matched by his willingness to devote his time and efforts to these causes without regard to the limitation or personal cost his condition imposed on those efforts. The practical results were considerable. The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, The Reeve-Irvine Resarch Center and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center remain as important players in the battle against spinal cord injuries and disease. His lobbying has led to increases in federal funds going to spinal cord research.

But Christopher's greatest contribution has been as an inspirational example. His courage gives hopes to many thousands of others. His fight has given him only nine more years but they are precious years shared with a loving wife and family and with the world. Above all he has shown us that even the totally paralysed may know a purpose and quality of life finer than most able-bodied will ever know.



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