The Unforgettable Love Story of Christopher and Dana Reeve
Life is about growing up and finding our place in this world. But it doesn’t always turn out the way we think it should, and things are not always what we perceive them to be. Bad people can also do good things, and good people sometimes do bad things, as well. These are lessons in life, and with them comes wisdom.
But what we may never know is why bad things happen to good people.
Shortly after Christopher Reeve’s accident, his three-year old son Will looked up to his mother and said his daddy can’t play him anymore. The boy seemed lost in thought and then exclaimed happily, “But he can still smile!”
It was an event that stunned the world. After portraying the Man of Steel in one of the most successful film series of all time, Christopher Reeve – Superman – became paralyzed from a sporting accident. In his memoir Still Me, he shares the pains and the joys, the agonies and the triumphs, of a man who would not give up, and he shows us the true meaning of courage, heroism and faith.
A Sickening Crash
It was May 1995, and Reeve was competing in an equestrian event. His horse, Buck, performed well at the first and second jumps. But on the third, Buck suddenly froze. The momentum catapulted Reeve and he smashed into the ground – headfirst – with a sickening crash.
“Within seconds I was paralyzed from the neck down and fighting for air like a drowning person.” For almost a week he remained unconscious. Upon waking, he found himself at the intensive care unit of the University Of Virginia Hospital. Dr. John Jane, head of neurosurgery, discovered that Reeve’s top two cervical vertebrae were destroyed.
His wife Dana was shocked to hear that there was a strong possibility that he may be able to breathe on his own again. The doctor explained that the skull was severed from the spinal column, and was pessimistic about the odds of survival.
Reeve was aghast. “Suddenly it dawned on me that I was going to be a huge burden to everybody, that I had ruined my life and everybody else’s.”
His thoughts became morbid, and suicide kept flashing on his mind.
“I’ll Be With You”
Emotional turmoil raged like a tempest within him. Reeve was deeply thankful for the family and friends who came. “But the time would come when everybody had to leave, and I’d lie there and stare at the wall, stare at the future, stare in disbelief.” In his dreams he was whole again, living a normal life. It was painful every time he would wake up, and the weight of reality would press heavier still.
One morning, he gazed into his wife and their eyes locked. He tried to speak, but the ventilator prevented him. He mouthed, “Maybe we should let me go.”
Dana started to cry. Despite the extreme agony, she declared, “I am only going to say this once. I will support you whatever you want to do because this is your life and your decision. But I want you to know that I’ll be with you for the long haul, no matter what.”
“You’re Still You”
Christopher and Dana met in June 1987. He was in a club with some friends when Dana went onstage and sang The Music That Makes Me Dance. It was love at first sight. Totally smitten, Reeve went backstage and introduced himself. He was already making a name for himself as a movie actor, so he was startled when she turned down his offer of a ride home: “No thanks, I have my own car.” Totally crestfallen, all Reeve could say was, “Oh.” Undaunted and even more intrigued, he tried again.
“I have no idea what we talked about. Everything seemed to evaporate around us. I thought to myself, I don’t want to make a mistake and ruin this.”
They began dating. He hit it off well with her parents and she instantly bonded with his two kids Matthew and Alexandra. “It filled me with joy,” he reminisced.
On April 1992, Christopher and Dana were married.
That morning when he was struggling with the ventilator, he remembered her words at the hospital: “You’re still you.”
In a flash it dawned on him. “I knew then and there that she was going to be with me forever.”
A Huge Success
Reeve was warned that he had a 50/50 chance of surviving the operation. “I lay frozen much of the time, thinking dark thoughts.” His most formidable problem was breathing. “I couldn’t take a single breath on my own, and the ventilator connections didn’t always hold.”
There were vivid moments when he would lie awake at night, apprehensive that they might pop-off anytime. “The feeling of helplessness was hard to take.”
One day, immersed in a bleak mood, Reeve was unnerved when the door suddenly flew open, and a squat man wearing thick glasses and a surgical gown scurried in and proclaimed – with a Russian accent – that he’s a proctologist and he’d do an examination now! Reeve was frightened that the drugs had addled his brain, but he then joyfully recognized the weird fellow.
It was Robin Williams!
Then Reeve did something he though he had forgotten.
“For the first time since the accident, I laughed.”
The operation was held on June 5, and it was a huge success. He was now able to breathe on his own.
To Last Forever
A fund-raising dinner in honor of Robin Williams was to be held that October by the Creative Coalition, an organization of people from various artistic fields. Reeve was determined to attend, but his greatest worry was the trip to New York. “It would be the fist time I would be in public since the accident in May. Would my muscles go into a spasm as they often did?”
He and Dana talked it over. They were fully aware of the physical risks, but they both agreed that the psychological benefits would be incalculable. And so the tuxedo was brought out, and Reeve braced himself for the adventure. Being strapped in a moving van was terrifying. “As we hit bumps and potholes, my neck froze with tension, and my body was racked with spasms.”
Upon arrival, he was rushed to a hotel suite equipped with a hospital bed to recuperate from the ordeal of the journey. “The whole experience was intense that I had anticipated.” Reeve was to present a special award to Williams.
On his wheelchair behind the curtains, he was trembling with fear. He had absolutely no idea what to expect. He even wished he could just simply vanish. Then he heard his name being called. It’s time.
“As I was pushed onto the stage, though, I looked out to see 700 people on their feet, cheering.” The whole auditorium shook with the intensity of the applause. The entire audience was in tears, inspired, uplifted, and grateful for his heroism. It was crystal clear: Christopher Reeve is Superman.
The ovations seemed to last forever. It was more than a tribute. It was a benediction.
A celebration of life.
Photo of Christopher and Dana Reeve courtesy of Engagements.ca Your comments are welcome and will be answered. You can link your blog with EasyHyperLinks