Interview

Man and superman

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7402.1287 (Published 12 June 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1287
  1. Lynn Eaton ([email protected]), freelance journalist and editor of patients theme issue1
  1. 1 BMJ, London

    Christopher Reeve—“Superman”—is rarely out of the limelight since a riding accident left him severely disabled. Certainly his fame—and fortune—have helped him deal with his disability, but his apparent emphasis on the importance of walking has outraged the disability lobby

    Introduction

    On a May morning in 1995, a young man was rushed to hospital after a near fatal riding accident. His injury broke the first and second vertebrae in his neck, leaving him completely paralysed from the neck down. Since then, he has had to spend his life in a wheelchair, on a ventilator, totally reliant on others.


    Embedded Image

    KEN REGAN/CAMERAFIVE

    Had the young man been one of the other 400 000 people so affected in the United States or the 40 000 in Britain, you would never have heard about it. However, he was Christopher Reeve, and the cruel irony of this happening to “Superman,” of all people, thrust him into the limelight at a time of personal crisis.

    Reeve was inundated with letters of support and encouragement after the incident. “It was a tremendous boost, particularly in the first couple of months, as I had to come to grips with what happened to me,” he acknowledges. He admits to feeling depressed and suicidal initially. But the love of his family helped pull him through. His wife, Dana, whom he married just three years earlier, resisted his suggestion that they “let him go” and persuaded him to give it another two years.

    Finding a sense of purpose

    Coming to terms with disability or a long term medical condition is hard enough for anyone. Doing it in the media spotlight can't be easy. Now, eight years on, Reeve has not only come to terms with his new life, but seems to have found a new meaning for it.

    With a quiet, Clark Kent earnestness, Reeve talks about life …

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