Christopher Reeve began to use the international interest in his situation to increase public awareness about spinal cord injury and to raise money for research into a cure.
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In May of 1995, it was during the cross-country portion of such an event in Culpeper, Virginia, that Reeve's Throughbred, Eastern Express, balked at a rail jump, pitching his rider forward. Reeve's hands were tangled in the horse's bridle and he landed head first, fracturing the uppermost vertebrae in his spine. Reeve was instantly paralyzed from the neck down and unable to breathe. Prompt medical attention saved his life and delicate surgery stabilized the shattered C1-C2 vertebrae and literally reattached Reeve's head to his spine. After 6 months at Kessler Rehabilitation Institute in New Jersey, Reeve returned to his home in Bedford, New York, where Dana had begun major renovations to accomodate his needs and those of his electric wheelchair which he operates by sipping or puffing on a straw. Ironically, this most self-reliant and active of men was now facing life almost completely immobilized and dependent on others for his most basic needs. In addition, his condition puts him at constant risk for related illnesses--pneumonia, infections, blood clots, wounds that do not heal, and a dangerous condition involving blood pressure known as autonomic disreflexia--all of which Reeve would experience in the coming years.
Department of Health and Human Services. His experiences with his own insurance company and, particularly, the experiences of other patients he had met at Kessler led him to push for legislation that would raise the limit on catastrophic injury health coverage from $1 million to $10 million. Reeve accepted the positions of Chairman of the American Paralysis Association and Vice Chairman of the National Organization on Disability. In partnership with philanthropist Joan Irvine Smith, he founded the Reeve-Irvine Research Center in California and he created the Christopher Reeve Foundation in 1996 to raise research money and provide grants to local agencies which focus on quality of life for the disabled. Reeve's star power, along with marketing for research dollars, are reasons why spinal cord injury research has been given greater attention and more money allocated to the cause. In 2000 Newsweek noted that, "Thanks to Christopher Reeve, spinal-cord injuries-which affect 250,000 Americans-have won great attention, while mass killers like lung cancer and stroke attract relatively less." Reeve has used the contacts he had made in Washington during his years of advocacy work to lead the fight to increase funding for spinal cord injury research which, despite recent breakthroughs by scientists, had previously received inadequate financial support.
Matthew is also documenting his father's progress in recovery for three television specials he directed premiering in 2002 and 2003 with the first special airing around Reeve's 50th birthday. Reeve's daughter Alexandra, in 2001, entered Yale University in Connecticut and joined the Yale Polo Squad. Creatively, Reeve has in the works movie projects to direct for ABC television on the inspirational lives of Jeffrey Galli, Brooke Ellison, and Robert McCrum. He also was the Creative Consultant for Freedom: A History of US, a 16-part miniseries on public television about American freedom that is set to begin airing in early 2003. On May 3, 2002 the U.S. government opened the National Health Promotion and Information Center for People With Paralysis, known as the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center through a non-competitive cooperative agreement awarded to the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. CRPF was designated in 2000 to establish the center through a line item in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention budget and officially named the recipient of the cooperative agreement in May 2001. The official purpose of the center is to develop and expand national efforts for the prevention of secondary conditions and complications, and to improve outcomes and the quality of life for people living with paralysis from multiple causes.
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