World Reeve : Dad was a superman to the end


Jan 10, 2005
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December 30, 2007

Dad was a superman to the end

In their first British interview, Christopher Reeve’s children talk in moving detail about how the family clung together in his fight against paralysis

For the last nine years of his life, Christopher Reeve, the actor who played Superman, became a different kind of superhero. Paralysed from the neck down after a riding accident in 1995, he turned his wheelchair into a rolling campaign to promote scientific research into possible cures for spinal cord injuries.

A few months before his death in 2004, he sat down in front of a video camera and declared: “I don’t want to be melodramatic, but I’m 51 and the clock is ticking ... I don’t want to be a senior citizen before I’m cured.” The moving scene appears in Christopher Reeve: Hope in Motion, a pair of documentaries made by Reeve’s older son, Matthew, a 28-year-old film director.

By some kind of cosmic coincidence that would surely have enchanted his father, I met Matthew Reeve and his sister Alexandra in New York around the same time that scientists in Japan and Wisconsin were preparing to unveil what may prove the most significant achievement in stem cell research to date.

Two teams of scientists reported independently that they had succeeded in “reprogramming” ordinary skin cells to make them behave like embryonic stem cells, the magical building blocks of human development that can be transformed into brain, bone, heart or nerve tissue. Although the process is not yet perfect, it has shown initial success in treating sickle-cell anaemia in mice and has the potential to transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of people suffering from paralysis.


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