Watch CBSN Live

Christopher Reeve Regains Movement

Christopher Reeve has regained some movement and sensation in his hands and feet, seven years after a horse-riding accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down.

"To be able to feel the just lightest touch is really a gift," Reeve said.

The "Superman" star also can breathe on his own for 90 minutes at a time, according to an article in the Sept. 23 issue of People magazine.

"Christopher Reeve's overall health is excellent," said Maggie Goldberg, spokeswoman for the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation (CRPF), a national non-profit organization of which Reeve is the chairman.

"Although Mr. Reeve cannot walk, he has regained the ability to move his right wrist, the fingers of his left hand and his feet. He can now feel a pin prick on the majority of his body and can move some of his joints voluntarily. He can also move other joints against resistance.

The actor has received treatment for the past three years through the "activity-based recovery program" that his doctor, John McDonald, created. The therapy consists of electrical muscle stimulation combined with repetitive motion exercises.

The results: Reeve can move the fingers on his left hand and the toes on both feet. He can feel a pin prick on most parts of his body and can tell the difference between hot and cold, and sharp and dull.

"No one who has suffered an injury as severe as Chris', and failed to have any initial recovery, has regained the amount of motor and sensory function he has," said McDonald, the medical director of the Spinal Cord Injury Program at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

"In addition, he can straighten his arms and legs, particularly when the effects of gravity are reduced (for example, in a pool or when he is lying down). But he has little or no balance control for sitting, standing or walking," says Goldberg.

Reeve had hoped to walk again by his 50th birthday, Sept. 25. But he says he's still encouraged, even though he won't reach that goal.

"The fact is that even if your body doesn't work the way it used to, the heart and the mind and the spirit are not diminished," he told the magazine. "It's as simple as that."

Reeve documents his progress in a new book, "Nothing is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life," and in an ABC program airing Sept. 18.

View CBS News In