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How would you like to be told you could be superman, the actual superman, a character that has been around since 1932 and known all around the world? Well, a man that did not take anything for granted had that very opportunity.
Christopher Reeve developed his passion for acting at the young age of 9 years old. Despite, being accepted into many widely renowned colleges Reeve decided to attend Cornell. After attending Cornell for about 3 years, he did some acting abroad and decided to switch to Julliard to focus solely on acting.
In 1977, the young actor was begged to act as Clark Kent/Superman in the new full length film.
Imagine that if you will. Growing up, watching a television show, reading a comic book, and one day someone asking you to be that character in a full length film, a character that the entire world was familiar with.
The Superman movies were a huge success and Christopher Reeve became known to the world as Superman. Life was going great for the hard working actor. He achieved his fame through pure hard work and determination. He never took a roll that he didn’t believe in.
Unfortunately, all of his glory would soon come to an end. Christopher Reeve took up horseback riding and actually was a great competitor in the sport. In 1995, his horse had failed to jump one of the obstacles and Christopher Reeve fell and sustained a cervical spine injury that paralyzed him from the neck down. His first and second vertebrae were completely shattered.
After doctors had told Reeve that he would more than likely never be able to move again, the actor considered all of his options. After carefully considering his situation, believing that not only would he never walk again, but that he might not ever even move a body part again, Reeve considered the unthinkable…suicide.
In the hospital he told his wife, “Maybe we should let me go.” She tearfully replied, “I am only going to say this once: I will support whatever you want to do because this is your life, and your decision. But I want you to know that I’ll be with you for the long haul, no matter what. You’re still you. And I love you.”
Reeve never considered suicide as an option again. Reeve underwent surgery and his spine was fused together, but he was now a quadriplegic. He underwent intense physical and occupational therapy and that is where he became inspired by the other patients around him.
Because he was constantly being covered by the media, he realized that he could use his name to the benefit of everyone with a spinal injury.
Reeve was elected Chairman of the American Paralysis Association and Vice Chairman of the National Organization on Disability. He co-founded the Reeve-Irvine Research Center, which is now one of the leading spinal cord research centers in the world. He created what is currently known as the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to speed up research through funding, and to use grants to improve the quality of the lives of people with disabilities. The Foundation to date has given more than $65 million for research. The Foundation has funded a new technology called “Locomotor Training” that uses a treadmill to mimic the movements of walking to help develop neural connections, in effect re-teaching the spinal cord how to send signals to the legs to walk. This technology has helped several paralyzed patients walk again.
UC Irvine said, “In the years following his injury, Christopher did more to promote research on spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders than any other person before or since. There’s such a difference in his outlook, his health, his overall sense of well-being when he’s working at what he loves, which is creative work.”
Throughout this time, Reeve kept his body as physically strong as possible by using specialized exercise machines. He did this both because he believed that the nervous system could be regenerated through intense physical therapy, and because he wanted his body to be strong enough to support itself if a cure was found. In 2002, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center was opened in Short Hills, New Jersey. Its mission is to teach paralyzed people to live more independently. Reeve said, “When somebody is first injured or as a disease progresses into paralysis, people don’t know where to turn. Dana and I wanted a facility that could give support and information to people. With this new Center, we’re off to an amazing start.”
Unfortunately, Christopher Reeve had a lot of other medical obstacles in his life on top of his paralysis. In 2004, while Reeve was attending his son’s hockey game he fell into cardiac arrest after receiving an antibiotic for infection and a few hours later the famous actor died at the age of 52.
Christopher Reeve has become known to many not only as a fictional superman, but as a real, live SUPERMAN. He has presented the valor and might of the Man of Steel not only on the screen but even after the life he once knew shattered. Christopher Reeve’s unfortunate accident did not stop him from becoming amazing. His effort towards his organization and his example he was able to give to the public was truly inspirational and still is for anyone that can relate to his situation.
There is no doubt that the story of Christopher Reeve is a tragic one, but the amount of individuals that have benefited from the work he has done is remarkable, and to a lot of individuals Christopher Reeve’s tragic accident was an opportunity in disguise to become the real, live superman.