I remember back when I was still in middle school back in the mid-1990s a very famous actor named, Christopher Reeve was injured in a horseback riding accident. Part of me wanted to believe it was just an injury that would have him hospitalized for a short time and then he would be back on his feet like it had never even happened. But another part of me knew that if my family was talking about it then it was probably more serious. In a worried voice I had asked, “Is he paralyzed or something?”
There are some injuries that most people are not able to bounce back from for the rest of their lives. They may show tremendous improvement but will never get their lives back even remotely close to where they once were before the accident. The accident becomes their personal September 11th in the sense that nothing is the same. Their life chronology is divided into "before and after the accident." Aside from raising money for autism research, I believe a large quantity of resources should be directed toward spinal cord research on behalf of individuals that are trapped in their own bodies forever. Some people do not believe in stem cell research, but it is my opinion in a nation that permits abortion and capital punishment it is acceptable to use these stem cells if there is a chance of curing or at least lessening something like spinal cord injuries. In his autobiography, Christopher Reeve spoke about how rats have been treated with experimental therapies, and the paralyzed rats were beginning to move their legs so much that they attempted to climb out of the cage! Perhaps such fantasies will stop being “false hope” one day in most of our lifetimes.
Everybody takes for granted the fact that we are able to move our limbs without thinking. The brain automatically transmits signals to our countless nerves that signal it is time to get out of bed at six o’clock in the morning. Most of us grumble about having to wake up so early but someone with spinal cord injuries wishes they could have the power to jump out of bed as early as 3:00 in the morning. Christopher Reeve once said that he has very little patience for people who are “able-bodied” but are disabled for other reasons.” There are times when I feel ashamed for complaining about the fact that I have to type parts of a book when someone like Christopher Reeve wishes that he had the ability to type at least fifty words a minute by effortlessly moving his fingertips. It is unrealistic that we will say every morning of our lives, “Jeez Louise! I am so fortunate to be able-bodied enough to have the privilege of getting up this early on a Monday morning. Hooray!!” But it is worth thinking about it once in a while and perhaps complaining only sixty percent of the time that we have to physically lift ourselves up to face our daily realities.
Christopher Reeve died from complications due to an infected bed sore in 2004. Around that time I was getting ready to hike the grueling Appalachian Trail. It occurred to me there are numerous people who wish hiking 2,174 miles were their worst problem, which made me more motivated to press onward!