Nine years ago, Christopher Reeve was left paralyzed by a riding accident, but he never gave up his fight to walk again. And his struggle impressed those who knew him.
Dr. John McDonald, a neurologist at Washington University School of Medicine who worked with Reeve on his rehabilitation, talked Monday with The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
Smith began by recalling one of Reeve's breakthroughs, announced in September 2002, when he regained a little movement in this hand and the sense of touch.
Said McDonald, "I think this epitomizes Chris' vision that he galvanized a new approach, a do-ability to recover function after injuries. Chris went for the first five years after his injury without recovering really any function," said McDonald, "so he remained unable to feel below his neck or move anything below his neck.
"And then, over the next three years, he slowly recovered to being able to feel throughout his entire body, to localize that touch and then to be able to move most of his joints in the body and most recently, we'd been working on trying to have him actually bicycle on a recumbent bike."
Because of his exercise and electronic stimulation, he was in good health. "You can imagine what five years of not moving can do to your body," explained McDonald. "Just the physical activity associated with exercise is
critically important in regulating the immune system and keeping the body in good shape." And that, he said, is one of the reasons Reeve did so well for as long as he did.
"He was so dedicated to whatever he was working on, it was incredible," recalled McDonald. "Chris was an amazing individual… He touched my life and really galvanized the center here at Washington University and our approach to repair. He was so dedicated to whatever he was working on, it was incredible."
Every single morning at 6 a.m., Reeve would begin his rehabilitation program and would keep at it for five hours, until 11 a.m., and only then would he begin the rest of his day.
"He had that ability to get that level of interest within anyone he was talking to. I mean, he's responsible for me…dedicating my life to restoring people's function after injuries."
In the end, both Smith and McDonald agreed that Reeve had an immeasurable gift in the way he inspired others.
Said the doctor, "He had this unique ability to touch individuals and to do it in a very brief amount of time, and I think that's one of the great things that we'll miss with him passing on."
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