Canton Repository

May 8, 2003

Reeve lends name to bill in fight against paralysis

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — Actor Christopher Reeve gave enthusiastic reviews Wednesday to legislation that would increase federal efforts to find a cure for paralysis and develop methods to more fully integrate the paralyzed into society.

The legislation is named after Reeve, a quadriplegic, who said he was “really honored, very humbled,” to be present as the bill was introduced by Reps. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Michael Bilirakis, R-Fla.

Brown is ranking member and Bilirakis is chairman of a congressional subcommittee where the proposed Christopher Reeve Paralysis Act of 2003 would first be debated.

Since breaking his neck in a 1995 horseback riding accident, Reeve has be-come the preeminent advocate for aggressive research into a cure for paralysis resulting from spinal cord injuries and other causes.

Unable to move from the neck down and breathing from a respirator, the genial Reeve said the legislation would bring together the best minds from the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Veterans Administration to pursue a cure, strengthen rehabilitation and improve the quality of life for the paralyzed.

“To have them work together, this is a really groundbreaking step forward,” the actor who once portrayed Superman said.

Although private foundations, including the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, raise millions of dollars a year for research, Reeve said it’s important for the government to take a leadership role in funding.

“Let’s not forget that people living with paralysis have been relegated to the sidelines for too long a time in the past,” he said. “Things are changing now.”

Before it was his turn to speak, Reeve wandered through the room with his eyes and smiled often as Brown and Bilirakis described the legislation.

Brown said an example of the progress being made through research is that Reeve has been able to breathe without a respirator for more than two hours at a time since Feb. 28, when he underwent surgery at University Hospitals in Cleveland. A team of surgeons there implanted a device that was developed in partnership with biomedical engineers at Case Western Reserve University.

Prior to getting the device, Reeve could only breathe for 10 minutes without assistance. “As his diaphragm muscle regains strength over the next couple of months, he may ultimately be able to breathe entirely on his own,” Brown said.