And a close friend says her relationship with Christopher was as strong as the love people felt for them.
Kathy Lewis, CEO of the Christopher Reeve Foundation, visited Dana in the hospital last week.
"I'm not sure Dana ever admitted it was a lost cause. She lived her life and her death with dignity and grace, and I'm not sure she ever felt it was the end.
"She was tired, obviously, but in fairly good spirits. We had a wonderful conversation. She had a wicked sense of humor. It still came out, and there was not one iota of sense that she was giving up. … She talked about going home, frankly. An amazing woman."
"Chris and Dana made people feel great when they were around them," Lewis said. "Never, ever did they feel sorry for themselves, and they never said, 'Why me?' Dana lived her life, as did Chris, just like that."
Lewis said she doesn't think Dana realized how revered she was: "I think she would say she was just an ordinary person. But we all feel she did extraordinary things. She touched so many people.
"She was so involved in our quality of life programs at the Christopher Reeve Foundation, where we were giving grants to people. And she'd go through all our grant applications, and she wanted to say yes to every single one of them. It was very hard for her. She'd say, 'How can I give someone money and not give somebody else money?' She was so involved with that and made a difference in so many people's lives. I think she was very unaware" of how people felt about her.
Simply put, Lewis observed, "I think she was an extraordinary human being. I think she got a lot of strength from Chris. Together, as a couple, they were the love story of the century. They got strength from each other. She was just an extraordinary woman. I think it was a very natural thing for her to do to be helpful and reach out to others."
Their 13-year-old son, Will is, Lewis said, "an amazing child. He has a great gene pool. He's in the loving arms of family and friends where he should be. I have respected their privacy beyond that, but he's a great kid and I'm sure he'll do just great."
As for the foundation, Lewis called it a "force of nature. There are 4 million people living with paralysis. They don't go away because Chris and Dana aren't here anymore. We've been stronger than ever. The people and the communities we serve and the foundation staff are so dedicated to making sure we find cures, which was Chris' issue, and improve quality of life, which was really Dana's."