Don’t Forget Superman: Christopher Reeve
Christopher Reeve died in October of 2004. He had suffered from paralysis due to an accident some years back. He fell from a horse and fractured his neck.
After the accident, our Superman focused on spinal cord injuries. He decided that a cure would come too late for him but that others could be cured and would then be able to regain their lost physical abilities.
The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation supports medical research. You can remember Christopher by supporting his foundation which funds research for spinal cord injury victims. Read tributes to Reeve and about the foundation at http://news. bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/film/3732310. stm.
Christopher Reeve’s wife, Dana, was and still is a Superwoman. Her devotion to Christopher during his illness is an example to all womanhood.
When I was a boy paralysis was common because of poliomyelitis. Many families had a member who was crippled by the disease. “Generally, conditions that affect the brain and spinal cord result in upper motor neurone paralysis. Some common examples are stroke, tumours, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, and severe trauma or injury to the head, neck or back. " See http://www.brainandspine.org.uk/information/publications/brain_and_spine_booklets/paralysis_the_loss_of_muscle_power/what_are_the.html.
Will Christopher Reeve’s dream come true? Will spinal cord injuries be curable in the future? I asked my son who knows about such things and he said:
The near solution is through biomedical science and engineering. Signals generated from the brain or nerves above the level of the injury will bypass the injury and allow near-normal function by prosthesis.
Currently, using the nerves that control the muscles you use for breathing, can restore arm motion lost by a severed nerve in the arm. This can be done without prosthesis. At first, the arm will come up every time you breathe. Then your marvellous brain will take over and you will be able to decide when to raise your arm.
There is a quantum jump between this technique used to repair an arm and what is required to repair a spinal cord injury.
When I was an engineering professor at Iowa State University, because of my industrial experience, I was asked to teach freshmen engineering students about the design process. At the end of the quarter we had a competition between the various classes to see who could come up with the best design of an object. We designed a toy bazooka, an ice carton and other such trivial projects.
I taught the coarse 10 times during a five-year period. At a planning meeting before the last contest, I told the staff that we should stop giving the best students the state of Iowa had to offer trivial assignments. They asked what I meant. They were concerned about the engineering skills of freshmen. I told them that an invalid or blind person could not get around our campus. I said many of the things that needed to be done, like access ramps, could be designed by the students.
After some consideration, the staff accepted my plan. That’s when I told them I did not want see college deans or distinguished professors judging the contest. I wanted the blind, the halt, and the lame.
As I remember, there were four sections out of sixteen that were in the finals. The students had photographed the obstacles on the campus. They had designed ramps and other objects within their capabilities. They had outlined all the items need for access.
The judges were in wheelchairs. They were members of a committee to help those who needed it get around the campus. We gave them all of the information needed for them to write a grant for money. Teary eyed, they accepted the student’s work.
The request grant was submitted and they received $400,000.00 from the Federal Government and $200,000.00 from the state of Iowa. Folks would be able to get around the campus, wheelchair, or crutches or not.
Don’t we all want to see the dream of Christopher Reeve come true? Why not contribute to his foundation? With money researchers will learn to restore function by complete spinal cord rehabilitation.
John T. Jones, Ph. D. (firstname.lastname@example.org, a retired VP of R&D for Lenox China, is author of detective & western novels, nonfiction (business, scientific, engineering, humor), poetry, etc. Former editor of Ceramic Industry Magazine, Jones is Executive Representative of International Wealth Success. He calls himself “Taylor Jones, the hack writer. "
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