*
Share ~ above PinterestAs both Superman and a human who lived through paralysis, Christopher Reeve has been an inspiration and beacon of hope for people roughly the world. Getty Images
On Oct. 10, 2004, the civilization lost a real-life superhero when Christopher Reeve, advocate and actor, passed far at the age of 52.

In the last decade that his life, Reeve, finest known for his iconic duty as Superman, had become just as lot a price of hope together the man of stole himself.

After a spinal cord injury left the paralyzed indigenous the neck down, he would go ~ above to harness the strength of his fame to help found the Christopher and also Dana Reeve Foundation, an organization devoted to elevating awareness and spurring the follow for a cure because that paralysis.

Now, 15 year after his death, Reeve still stands together a beacon to millions of people roughly the people who have a spinal cord injury, if the structure he started proceeds to fight because that a future where lifelong spinal cord injuries are a thing of the past.


A young reflections

Reeve’s enduring affect permeated the room at the foundation’s annual “A magical Evening” gala in ~ Cipriani south Street in brand-new York City previously this month. An awards ceremony honoring spinal cord injury advocates, the occasion was both a solemn event of the strides do in expertise spinal cord injuries and a reminder that an ext work needs to be done.

You are watching: How did christopher reeve become paralyzed

It was additionally a bittersweet commemoration the those no much longer here, given that the two civilization who are vital parts the the foundation’s name have actually passed — Christopher Reeve and also his wife Dana, who passed away from lung cancer in 2006.

This mix that emotions to be something the evening’s emcee — will Reeve, son of the foundation’s co-founder — stated he generally feels annually as the gala come around.

While it to be his first year hosting the ceremony, the event is close to his heart. No only has the structure been a component of most of his life, he likewise now sits on its board of directors together his enlarge siblings Matthew Reeve and Alexandra Reeve Givens.

“It’s an occasion I and my family look front to every year. It marks the passage of time in a many ways, but it additionally marks progress as well. It marks progress due to the fact that we room doing so much each year, we are progressing the reason so much, every day, every year, every week,” will Reeve, that is likewise a reporter for abc News, called buzzpatterson.com before the start of the event. “We are here to storage the community that we room a actual beacon for and a component of — it’s hugely necessary to me and also my family.”

When inquiry what his well known father would certainly think the the night honoring a selection of advocates and leaders in the spinal cord injury community, will certainly Reeve claimed he knows his dad would be “very happy” and also “thrilled to view old friends and make new ones and see the progress that’s been made.”

He included that his father to be the type of person who “would never ever rest till the job is done,” a characteristics he says he shares through his siblings.

Will Reeve was simply 3 years old as soon as his father’s life changed forever — Christopher Reeve came to be paralyzed as soon as he suffered a cervical spinal cord injury from a horse-riding accident.

He was 11 once his father died after going into cardiac arrest adhering to an antibiotic treatment for an infection. 2 years later, his mother passed away when he was simply 13 year old.

These tragedies have been part of a life whereby spinal cord injury advocacy has actually been crucial to the Reeve family’s identity. Will certainly Reeve calls occasions like the gala a continuous “aspect of my life” but additionally reminders that the point out his parental made.

“Any time someone want to prevent my parents on the street, any time my parents to be honored v an award or whatever else, any kind of time i was reminded that the impact that mine parents had was crucial to me,” that said.


The nationwide Spinal Cord Injury Statistical center (NSCISC), reports around 291,000 human being are living in the United says with a spinal cord injury.

Zooming out globally, the civilization Health company says in between 250,000 and also 500,000 experience a spinal cord injury each year.

Vehicle crashes space the top cause, followed by falls, action of violence, sports and also recreational activities, as well as medical and surgical procedures, according to the NSCISC.

Given how usual these injuries are, the contact for both an ext advanced therapies and continued research that could lead come the fabled “cure” (the return that a person’s mobility) is loud and also clear.

Ethan Perlstein, PhD, who was named the foundation’s very first chief scientific officer this fall, said the spinal cord injury ar has proficient a most frustration end the years.

He said past suggestions of breakthroughs haven’t constantly panned out as expected, and also there’s constantly the difficulty of securing funds because that research and also disseminating clear, accurate details to the public.

“People use the word ‘cure,’ castle toss it approximately a lot. The neighborhood has to have the ability to believe again. We have actually to interact those large wins, no just about being in the ‘ivory tower,’ and raising large funds, it’s around talking around all the this, engaging with the ar — acquiring the community to believe, but additionally getting the community to take part in trials,” Perlstein called buzzpatterson.com in ~ the gala.

Perlstein doesn’t concerned the foundation directly v background ~ above spinal cord research.

However, he’s worked in the biomedical research study realm, starting his own start-up in 2014, Perlara PBC, which worked directly with families and people directly impacted by rare genetic illness to try to develop new drug treatments.

After that firm shuttered, Perlstein claimed he was looking for a new role that would allow him to assist take a “patient advocacy team to the next level.”

Enter the Reeve Foundation. He stated the foundation has to be doing good work providing care to world who look for it — the structure says that much more than 100,000 households have received straight assistance with its Paralysis source Center due to the fact that it was first established — however that the hunt because that a “cure” to be an area that needed even an ext resources and also support.

Perlstein said brand-new research to treat spinal cord injuries could have other of a domino impact in other areas, too.

Since the spinal cord is basically an extension of the brain, he stated that a conversation roughly fixing that sort of injury could benefit research into conditions like ALS or multiple sclerosis, “or other conditions that space neurodegenerative.”

“It’s yes, really saying, ‘OK we have actually the ‘care’ part, currently need to have the ‘cure’ to enhance it, and hopefully one day we won’t need the care. It will be packaged as curative treatments,” the added. “The goal would certainly be to say, ‘We used to need to have these treatment resources available, however now we have these packages of treatments that current a cure."”

Dr. Sanjay S. Dhall, associate professor the neurological surgical treatment at university of California, mountain Francisco, and the director of spine trauma at Zuckerberg san Francisco general Hospital, called buzzpatterson.com that much has changed since Reeve’s accident 25 year ago.

The grim diagnosis the someone choose Reeve challenged of there being no possibility of regaining movement doesn’t seem as clear-cut in this present era, stated Dhall, that is no affiliated v the foundation.

Right now, Dhall is the co-principal investigator because that TRACK-SCI, a multi-site clinical study that’s closely analyzing current spinal cord injury care and also treatment practices.

“Today, with a mix of wild treatments, we deserve to take a most injuries previously deemed ‘permanent and irreversible’ and also get pretty superior recoveries,” Dhall said. “I’m no trying to case we deserve to reverse paralysis, what we have actually learned is that if us treat each among these patient — also with severe injury — aggressively and rapidly, we’ll see far better results than in the past.”

Dhall claimed that the tiny window of time instantly after a who injury is when “even the the smallest of interventions” have the right to have a far-reaching impact on the individual’s high quality of life relocating forward.

“A most our efforts has the operation treatment. What to execute with the patient after surgery? What other approaches are easily accessible to optimize their recovery that the spinal cord and make sure the spinal cord is getting enough blood flow and oxygen so there’s the chance to recover?” the said.

Dhall said the idea the the sooner the spinal cord can be decompressed, the better the recovery has actually stood together a somewhat “controversial claim.”

He stated he and also his team have actually been may be to conference increasingly an ext “high-quality data” the reveal getting a person in the operating room within 12 hrs of your injury shows “dramatically greater improvement.”

He said that his research study has presented that 89 percent of patient who receive this early intervention show improvements.

Beyond this work, he said there’s exceptional research being excellent in the ar on how electrical stimulation that the spinal cord can obtain “previously paralyzed world to move” and get to the point where they deserve to support their very own weight.

See more: Harry Potter Book And The Cursed Child, Harry Potter And The Cursed Child


Share ~ above Pinterest(Above) will Reeve addresses the audience at an occasion held by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Getty Images

Dhall claimed that, ironically, before his conversation with buzzpatterson.com, he recently watched “Superman II” through his children. He said his children are still also young to recognize what taken place to Reeve, but Dhall was struck by what “an inspiration” he always was.

Both his indelible portrayal that the All-American superhero and his later on activism were remarkable facets of who Reeve was and continues come be: a figure who, through art and action, can uniquely inspire.

“I think over there is a lot an ext hope now. Ns hope various other institutions adopt some of this protocols in surgery and ICU devices that we’ve to be evidencing,” Dhall added. “It’s an amazing time, and every one of us in this ar owe a blame of gratitude to Christopher Reeve and his family members taking the initiative.”

For his part, will Reeve stated he is constantly motivated by the neighborhood of human being living v paralysis he meets on a regular basis.

“To occupational with them and for them is an honor and also a privilege and also a responsibility,” that said. “To meet human being whose entirety life is committed to recognize cures for paralysis definitely makes us work that lot harder and also work that lot faster and also be as huge and together bold as we possibly can be, for this reason to view them here and throughout the year, is hugely motivating.”

When inquiry what word an initial comes come mind once he think of not simply the structure itself however his parents and also their advocacy work, he no hesitate: “Hope.” “For sure that’s it,” will certainly Reeve said. “Hope is the point that keeps everybody going and when you have hope, anything is possible.”