“You are a Superman and you will pull through this like the hero that you are.”…”Almost three years ago…a spinal cord injury not too different from yours left me hospitalized…. It was the darkest moment of my life. I’ve come miles since that moment, and life is every bit as enjoyable and worthwhile as it ever was.”…”Please don’t give up. You have much to offer the world.”…”There are a lot of people out there pulling for you.”
—From online letters sent to Christopher Reeve
THE TV CREWS HAVE PACKED UP and gone home. So has the throng of reporters, some who came from as far away as South Africa and Australia. Doctors no longer give a daily press briefing. But Christopher Reeve is far from alone in battling back from the devastating riding accident on May 27 that shattered his first two vertebrae and left him near death. Three weeks later the 42-year-old actor can sit upright, has some feeling restored to his upper body and is listening to friends and family members read aloud to him from the thousands of letters and telegrams that have arrived from around the world and have cheered his spirits (see following page).
After Reeve was helicoptered to the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, there was no guarantee that he would even survive. He is still paralyzed and remains in intensive care, unable to use his limbs or to breathe without a respirator. And yet, says his doctor, neurosurgeon John Jane, “he’s a wonderful patient. He’s so eager to be mobilized.”
His progress thus far has been heartening. Seven days after the accident, Reeve reported sensation in his chest, signifying that his spinal cord was not severed. He has since been able to flex the trapezius muscles in his back. “That’s a positive sign,” said Jane. “He is consciously moving this part of his body.” Reeve is now able to sit with his neck supported in a brace and to eat solid foods. He initially could communicate only by mouthing words, but now can speak when his respirator is removed. (His first message was, “Testing—one, two, three.”) Reeve’s most grueling ordeal so far was the 6½-hour operation on June 5 to implant U-shaped wires in his neck to prevent further damage from bone fragments near his spinal cord. Informed that the surgery was a success, he smiled.
Beyond such incremental improvements, Reeve has been buoyed by the vigilant company of his wife, singer-actress Dana Morosini, 34, and their son, Will, 3. His former lover, Gae Exton, 43, and their two children, Matthew, 16, and Alexandra, 12, who flew to his bedside from England, have now left. The family has been overwhelmed with 20,000 cards and letters—not to mention hundreds of faxes—and visitors have included Robin Williams, Reeve’s former roommate at New York City’s Juilliard School when the two were first starting out in show business. Given Williams’s friendship—and zaniness—Reeve perhaps got a dose of the best medicine of all: laughter.