Many of us think life would be unbearable if we lost the use of our arms or legs... That our quality of life would be poor indeed, and yet there are studies that find that most people's level of happiness or unhappiness returns to its previous baseline within a year... regardless of a “positive change” like winning the lottery, or a “negative change” like losing the ability to walk due to something like worsening Multiple Sclerosis. Christopher Reeve’s life-altering accident and what his connection to life became afterward… offers us a chance to wonder what human well-being consists of at its core.
0:00 – 2:18 Life before…
2:18 – 3:50 Now: Details about how he moves and breathes.
3:50 CR names parts of his body where he still feels the touch of others sole of left foot, shoulders, left chest… “It’s nice to still have a connection [when others touch these parts of my body.]”
4:30 – 8:30 The accident.
8:30 The biggest danger now facing him as a paraplegic:
CR: When the air hose disconnects an alarm goes off and someone comes to reconnect it… I used to panic but that wastes more air, – now I’ve learned to go very still… and I’m much calmer… And [caretakers] have gotten to me.
10:23 – 11:50 Is it worth it to keep on living?
10: 23 CR: [I asked] Dana, my lovely wife Dana… Do you still want me this way?
10:46 Dana “Everyone in the family asked themselves: How can he live like this? [And yet] in the ICU I could see him, touch him… I haven’t lost him, he’s here”
CR: I thought “It’s not worth everybody’s trouble... Maybe I should just check out. And Dana said to me: “You’re still you, and I love you”...
Dana: “I’ll go with your decision. But I’m with you for the long haul… to the end.”
11:51 – 14:35 What he realized that made continuing to live the obvious thing to do:
Dana: “It was when the children [Will 3, Alexandra 11, Matthew 15] walked in the room.”
CR: “And I could see how much they needed me. …I didn’t want to burden them, to be a trouble to them. – The minute they all came in and I could see the love, feel the love, and know we’re still a family…”
“The first 2 months after the injury, the demons would come get me in the middle of the night… I’d lie awake from 2am to 7 am… I’d think ‘What’s going to become of me. Woe is me. In my dreams, I’d be whole. Riding my horse, being with my family… I be on the boat Dana and I built… we’d be sailing, making love… then I’d wake up at 2:am [and remember I was paralyzed] …
“What changed that was that I began to see there is a future… and as the love and support and friendship of family and friends and others… all these things came to me, and I realized their value. And I realized, man I am so lucky… so lucky, it’s unbelievable”
[Reported later: CR – I now enjoy simple things like looking at clouds. I enjoy my relationship with my wife in a way that is different, better. Everything is different now.]
-- Let's all take a breath or three. Breathe in... perhaps let it out with a sigh.