Christopher Reeve, the symbol of spinal cord injury research activism, has died at age 52. News report has it that he went into a coma after a cardiac arrest on Saturday and died on Sunday. It was also stated that he was being treated for a pressure sore, a common complication for those living with paralysis. Pressure sores develop when the skin and tissues surrounding bony protuberances in the body dies after the blood supply to the skin is cut off due to an extended period of inactivity such as sitting or lying down for too long in the same position.
The actor, famous for his role in four Superman movies, broke his neck when he was thrown from his horse on May 27, 1995. The fall crushed his first and second cervical vertebras and severely damaged his spinal cord. With damage this high on the spinal cord, Reeve lost the ability to breathe and also lost sensory and motor functions below the level of injury. In short, he was totally paralysed and would die without the aid of a ventilator to help him breathe.
Reeve had been vocal in his push for stem cell research, considered a critical component in the cure for spinal cord injury. President Bush had opposed stem cell research and funding for such studies have been severely cut by the US government. The research involves stem cells derived from human embryos and is opposed by many because of its ethical, moral, legal and religious ramifications. Despite this setback, Christopher Reeve had been the flag bearer of hope for those afflicted with spinal cord injury.
May his soul rest in peace.