Christopher Reeve would have been 70

Paralysis Research

Christopher ReeveLots of people have mused why Christopher Reeve, born September 25, 1952, was the perfect Superman. Part of it is that perfect early scene:
Supes: Easy miss, I’ve got you
Lois Lane states: You–you’ve got me? Who’s got you?
And it’s that little chuckle that I loved.

But also, he was my favorite Clark Kent. If you don’t accept Clark as distinct, it’s difficult to buy the secret identity of the superhero. I saw the first two films, and even though the second film is a lesser effort, it was not the failure of the actor in the lead. Here was his workout regimen. 

I didn’t see him in much else. Remains of the Day (1993) and Noises Off (1992) I liked. Also Somewhere in Time (1980), during which Jane Seymour says she and Christopher Reeve were “falling in love.”

Then, “on May 27, 1995, the actor injured his spinal cord after falling off his horse in an equestrian competition… The blow left him paralyzed from the neck down and forever in a wheelchair. Reeve was only 42 years old. The doctors took away any hope of improvement, assuring him that it was ‘impossible’ to recover movement…

“As The New York Times revealed, if the actor had fallen one centimeter further to the left, he would have died on the spot. If he had done so to the right, he would most likely walk out with less than a concussion.

“Reeve reappeared in public at the 1996 Oscar Awards, a surprise remembered as one of the most exciting moments in the history of the awards.” I’m very sure I got a lot verklempt at that moment. Christopher quipped, “What you may not know is that I left New York in September and just arrived in Los Angeles this morning [March 25, 1996].”

The Foundation

The above paragraphs were from a piece on the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 1999.

Even before then, both Christopher and Dana were involved with activism. “In the years following his injury, Christopher did more to promote research on spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders than any other person before or since.”

As the  AmeriDisability page notes: “Originally created in 1982 in response to the injury of Henry Stifel, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation – first conceived as the Stifel Paralysis Research Foundation, a community-driven nonprofit dedicated to curing spinal cord injury (SCI) – marks its 40th anniversary (2022). Over the last four decades, the Reeve Foundation has evolved to become the premier national, paralysis-focused nonprofit organization working to address a dual care-cure mission – providing free, comprehensive resources to help those impacted by SCI and paralysis as it advances the most promising scientific advances toward cures.”

Check out the page.

The most recent Charity Navigator listing for the Foundation gives it a “score is 87.31, earning it a 3-Star rating. Donors can ‘Give with Confidence’ to this charity.” Note that “this score represents Form 990 data from 2019, the latest year published by the IRS,” because the agency “is significantly delayed in processing nonprofits’ annual tax filings.”


In 1998, Reeve produced and starred in Rear Window. It is, of course, a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s great 1954 film. “He was nominated for a Golden Globe and won a Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance.” Of course, it doesn’t compare with the original. But one scene actually terrified me. When the villain disconnected the Reeve character’s breathing tube, it was impossible for me to separate the role from the guy playing it.

On October 9, 2004, Reeve went into cardiac arrest after receiving an antibiotic for an infection. He fell into a coma and was taken to a hospital in Mount Kisco, New York. He died on October 10 at the age of 52, quite possibly as the result of an adverse reaction to a drug, something he had experienced in the past.

Dana Reeve married Christopher in 1992. Less than a year after his death, Dana announced that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. “She had never smoked but in her early career often sang in smoky bars and hotel lobbies.” She died on March 6, 2006, at the age of 44, at NYC’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

But their work lives on.

The Wife and the tax compromise

I wasn’t giving to charity because it was deductible, I was giving because I was called to do so.

1040sc_Page_1I’m playing cards (hearts) the day after my birthday, and someone mentioned preparing taxes. I noted that the Wife and I get someone else to do it for us. My friend did not understand. “It’s EASY with TurboTax” or some other software. I repeated that we outsource our tax prep because it was best for us to do so. My reaction was perceived as passionate, maybe even heated, although it did not feel that way to me. It was just what we do to ensure domestic tranquility.

For one thing, I don’t think doing the taxes is that simple, like this post I came across notes. By the time you’ve gathered all the papers necessary to plug into some tax software, most of the crappy work that needs to be calculated has already been done.

The first year we filed together was a nightmare for me and a real irritant for her. Here’s why: I had NEVER filled out an itemized tax form in my life. I had used Form 1040A, or, often Form 1040EZ, which is, as it suggests, easy.

The Wife, conversely, had a rental property that involved filling out a Schedule C for income gain or loss on a business.

She also calculated her charitable deductions, including the value of the non-cash donations. Not only could I not be bothered to do that in the past, but I also had a philosophical aversion to it. I wasn’t giving to charity because it was deductible, I was giving because I was called to do so. There are a couple of friends of mine who run a Catholic charity which is, pointedly, NOT a 501(c) tax-deductible charity under IRS law, and they expect people to donate based on their heart, not as a tax haven. NOW I do it because my spouse thinks it’s fiscally prudent, and despite my antipathy for doing so, we do.

Those first two years of filing taxes, which took FOREVER, we got slapped with penalties for underpaying somehow. After that, we got someone else to do the work. Actually at least one of THOSE years, we paid too little again, but we were only responsible for the amount, NOT the penalty and interest, which came out of the pockets of the accountant.

The Wife and I are celebrating 15 years of marriage today, and one of the reasons is that we found a way not to make ourselves crazy each April.

Helping Those Who Ask For Money

One of the factors about giving out money isn’t whether it’s a legit request; if they’re lying, it’s on them, not me.

Periodically, but especially in November and December, I contemplate my personal policy with regards to those who come up to me and ask me for money. Some folks, including a former pastor of mine, are adamant that one ought not to; there are registered charities for that purpose. I’ve not been comfortable with that absolutist position, though, and I take it on a case-by-case basis.

There was a day this fall, though, where my instincts were just…off. Something had happened at work earlier in the day that frustrated me. When I got off the bus downtown, a guy asked me for money to buy some food. As it turned out, we were right in front of a Subway sub shop. My first instinct was to say, “Hey, why don’t we go in here, and I’ll buy you a sub?” I had the time (it was a Thursday and choir was in an hour) and the means (a $5 sub wouldn’t break me). Moreover, I wouldn’t have to worry that the money was going to be used for another (“inappropriate”) purpose, and, by going into a well-lit restaurant, I would feel relatively safe and secure. But my answer was “no”; and it was as though I was watching myself say that, because it surely couldn’t have been me. It bothered me for DAYS, because my grumpiness had robbed me of the opportunity to do good.

It didn’t help that the lectionary reading a few weeks later was Matthew 25, all that good stuff about seeing the hungry and feeding them.

That wasn’t the only thing that went wrong that day. After that incident, I then went to the library and gave someone what turned out to be bad advice about whether he had time to get a coffee before his computer time came up; I didn’t realize that the computer clocks were 10 minutes fast, and he missed his turn and had to rejoin the queue, so I felt bad about giving such lousy advice. I was so distraught that I didn’t even end up going to choir, but rather ended up calling a few of my friends, none of whom were home.

One of the factors about giving out money isn’t whether it’s a legit request; if they’re lying, it’s on them, not me. It IS about security, though, and I am loath to pull out my wallet in front of strangers, especially at night. I’ve recently started carrying dollar coins – another good use for them – which I can dig out of my pocket, which is also easier.

Do any of you struggle with this?

World Pneumonia Day – November 12, 2011

Save the Children received a grade of A in the December 2011 Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report.

I knew instinctively that childhood pneumonia deaths, once too common, are now very rare in the US. I’ve been told that they have decreased almost 99% since 1939, thanks to the discovery and availability of effective medications. But children from developing countries aren’t so lucky. Each year 1.4 million children under 5 die from pneumonia – more than any other cause. More than from AIDS, malaria, and measles combined!

Here’s a short Mission: Pneumonia Quiz. Better yet, go to the World Pneumonia Day page to watch a video and read a personal story of how pneumonia affected one family.

This event is sponsored by Save the Children, which, not so incidentally, received a grade of A in the December 2011 Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report from CharityWatch, formerly the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP); I’m a member of CW, and I checked its database to verify that indeed STC’s cost to raise $100 is only $10, quite low as these things are calculated. Moreover, they have an “open book” policy when it comes to finances. The 2011 Save the Children Gift Catalog is now available.

Pneumonia is the world’s leading killer of children, but there are viable solutions. I recently read the Lancet study about how the administration of oral amoxicillin to the children aged 2–59 months in a Pakistan region by community health workers has provided “strong evidence” that the methodology used is likely to “contribute further to a reduction in the number of pneumonia deaths.” That is quite promising news, but it takes resources, money well spent in creating a solution.

Photo credit: In Pakistan’s Haripur district, Lady Health Worker Naseem bibi counts 1-year-old Usama’s breaths, before successfully treating him for pneumonia. A new Lancet study by Save the Children shows that children treated by community health workers at home were more likely to recover from severe pneumonia than those referred to a health facility, the current standard of care. Just ahead of World Pneumonia Day, the study offers new hope for treating the world’s leading child killer in communities where hospitals and doctors are out of reach. Credit: Save the Children

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial