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Encore Presentation: Interview With Christopher Reeve

Aired February 23, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Christopher Reeve and his wife Dana. He's doing things even Superman wouldn't believe. And wait until you hear about his new acting role. Christopher Reeve for the hour is next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.
Thanks for joining us. We've had Christopher Reeve on many times since the horse riding accident that left him paralyzed in May of 1995. His progress has been simply amazing, as you'll see tonight. We're also going to give you a sneak peak at his latest acting gig. It's a familiar story for Christopher, just a different role.

But we start tonight with some groundbreaking show and tell.


KING: Now, what's going on? I mean, you're moving parts -- what's going on?

CHRISTOPHER REEVE, ACTOR: Well, it's about time. Only took me five years. What's been happening is that I have been doing a lot of exercise starting in rehab and going on day after day after day. And it turns out that exercise is able somehow to re-awaken dormant pathways and get movement.

KING: But how do you explain it in this regard, Chris? I'm trying to picture it as a total layman, if the spine is cut off, how can the finger -- and the brain can't signal the finger, how can the finger move?

C. REEVE: OK. Where you're wrong is in the cut off part, because actually my spinal chord wasn't cut at all. It just has a hemorrhage in the middle of it at one point. And so there are a lot of nerve tracks that have been spared and lot that are reawakening because of exercise.

KING: And how much more can happen?

C. REEVE: Unlimited. We really don't know. And -- but we're sure going to find out. I'm going keep exercising because I think the cure is going to come from patients doing exercise to maintain health and prepare for science.

KING: So exercise is going to be a significant part of the cure?

C. REEVE: Yes. And actually now, there are activity-dependent recovery programs that are being developed all around the country just for that purpose.

KING: Dana, were you with Chris -- what was the first thing, Dana, that Chris moved? was it a finger or toe?

DANA REEVE, CHRISTOPHER REEVE'S WIFE: It was his finger. And, yes, we were there. We were having a conversation in our home. And every time he said something where one might gesture, use a hand gesture, his finger was popping up. And we both started to notice it. And then he said, I think I can make that happen on my own. And he did.

KING: OK. Chris, we're going to try something here. There, we've got the hand. We've got our camera on your left hand with the wedding band. Let's put it back. Move the finger.


C. REEVE: ... in other words, to show that it's voluntary, you give me the instruction. You say go.

KING: OK. Christopher Reeve, I'm your director here tonight. Move your finger.

C. REEVE: Say go.


D. REEVE: There you go.

KING: Whoa.

C. REEVE: Say stop.

KING: Stop.

C. REEVE: Say go.


D. REEVE: Who's directing who here?

KING: Stop. He's directing me. All right, now, explain what's happening, Chris. As I say, go, what are you doing?

C. REEVE: OK. What's happening is that just as normal, I hear you and my brain deciphers what you've said because I speak English, and then it goes down the spinal cord all the way to the seventh cervical vertebra, which is way below my injury. Then the message goes out to the peripheral nerves and all the way down to the finger and I get instantaneous reaction.

KING: Now I am told...

C. REEVE: And that's why -- sorry.

KING: I'm sorry, go ahead. C. REEVE: And that's why we got so excited. See, that movement was so random, so unexpected. We figured anything else is possible.

KING: I'm told you can move the right wrist, fingers on the left hand. Now feel a light touch or a pinprick over the body. Can move arms and legs in a pool. Can breathe on your own for about an hour at a time.

C. REEVE: Hour-and-a-half. Somebody reported that I could wiggle my hips. Why would I want to do that? I did that when I was 5.

KING: What does it feel like, Chris, when you're off the machine?

C. REEVE: It's great because I used to just gulp for air like a fish out of water. But now I'm able to sit very serenely and use my diaphragm. And listen to classical music and I just let the body happen. It's really been quite remarkable. It's really been exciting.

KING: Dana, what do you make of this?

D. REEVE: Well, it -- somehow it doesn't surprise me that much. And I know that may sound odd because the predictions were dire. But there is nothing yet that anyone has ever said to Chris that he hasn't defied. When they say he can't do something, he makes it a point to actually go ahead and do it. And that's been across the board. He's someone who has defied predictions from the first day. So I'm thrilled. I'm so excited for him. And I think he's a great inspiration and motivator for so many people.

C. REEVE: But the main message, Larry, is it's really not just for me.

D. REEVE: Yes.

C. REEVE: I'm privileged. I have a staff. I have the equipment. But the one thing that I really hope comes out of this is that there's a paradigm shift in the way we look at what insurance should be doing to give people equipment so that they can accomplish the same thing that I have been able to accomplish. And that's really, really key. Otherwise it's just one individual.

KING: And how do you react, Chris, to those who say the reason you can do this is you have the wherewithal to spend the funds, to have the physicians, the equipment, your chair, the kind of people around you that the average person doesn't have?

C. REEVE: Frankly, everything that I can do can be done by a family at home. Well, even if you have a pool in your house, you could do the aqua therapy. But riding on a bike and using electrical stimulation of the muscles, the breathing off the hose, you can do that with your own family. And also you can do it at rehab centers as an outpatient. The main thing that will make a difference is that insurance companies need to pick up this therapy and pay for it, because they will profit off of it. People like me will stay out of the hospital and people with lower level injuries will get up and get out of their chairs.

D. REEVE: We also, though, there's a bill, the Christopher Reeve bill is about to drop, we hope, in...

C. REEVE: It passed unanimously in both houses.

D. REEVE: Yes, and one of the things it will establish, a center of excellence in all 50 states. So if you can't afford or if insurance is still a snafu for your family, you can go somewhere where it has the exact same equipment that Chris has been using. He is not really Superman, and there is no real (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It's that he has tremendous motivation and hard work, and people pushing him. And if we can get those factors for others.

KING: Good line, Dana. I've got to get a break.

Before we go to break, an update on the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Act. It got bogged down in the last session of Congress. It now has to be reintroduced. Supporters are hoping that will happen in april. When we come back, more on his amazint recovery, but first, here is a clip from this coming Tuesday's episode of the WB network's "Smallville."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello? Hello, Dr. Swan (ph)? What am I doing here?

C. REEVE: Looking for answers, I assume.

Hello, Clark. I've been expecting you.



KING: We're back with Christopher Reeve and his wife Dana. Now, Chris, this doesn't now lessen the need for more stem cell research, does it?

C. REEVE: No, not at all. As a matter of fact, there's been a really wonderful development in California just the other day. The state legislature has authorized a bill that would allow the state government to fund research on stem cells derived from any source. And that's a tremendous breakthrough. And I hope that it creates a grassroots movement across the country.

KING: Dana, I know it's discussed in the book, but when Christopher was on this show, one of the first times he was on, maybe the first time, he said one of the things he thought about doing when this first happened was killing himself. D. REEVE: Early on.

KING: Did he relay that thought to you at that time, Dana?

D. REEVE: Early, early on, yes. Really right after he had regained consciousness in the hospital in Virginia. He talked about it. We discussed it, actually, as an option. And it was something that he -- I think everyone does this. You have these late night conversations with your loved ones or your friends and you say if such and such ever happens to me, I don't want to live. And that had been a discussion.

C. REEVE: But briefly.

D. REEVE: What's that? Briefly. Well, it had been a brief one, but before the accident, just the idea of what you imagine you can withstand, and then the reality -- they're two different things.

KING: And he told me he stayed alive because of you. But you say in the book that you said, let's give it two years and if after two years you still want to kill yourself, I'll help you?

D. REEVE: Well, that was more of -- you call it a salesman tactic.

C. REEVE: Yeah, that's what a car salesman does.

D. REEVE: If you don't like it, you can return it.

C. REEVE: You try it, you don't like it, bring it back. It will be fine, we'll give you a refund.

D. REEVE: I figured that after...

C. REEVE: You know, two years, two years of living with this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and our dog and our house and our love and is like, no way.

KING: Christopher, what are your days like, though? There's less pausing when you speak now. I notice there's not a heavy breath. There's no longer those heavy intakes about every 10 or 15 seconds. Is life much better, or is it still a lot of terrible aspects?

C. REEVE: No. There are very few terrible aspects. And yeah. I have -- when we first talked, I could only, you know, sit up in the chair for about six hours at a time, because of the skin infections. Now it's 16 hours. And I don't have to be turned in bed every night. A lot of breakthroughs.

KING: What keeps you going, Dana?

D. REEVE: Well, Chris keeps me going. Our son Will keeps me going. There's not a lot -- life keeps me going. I'm basically a happy person. I don't need a lot of prompting to keep going.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that's changed in your life, Chris, and it comes as a surprise to me, because I remember including in my book, when I wrote a book some years back, "Powerful Prayers," asking you, and you said you were kind of an agnostic, you were certainly not a religious person. You didn't look to God. You didn't say please, God, help me get better. Has that changed?

C. REEVE: Well, believe it or not, in my book, "Nothing is Impossible," I have divided it into two chapters: the search for spirituality, one chapter is on faith. The other chapter is on religion. In a way they're kind of different for me. Because as a kid, religion seemed to be a bit scary, that somebody sort of -- you were kind of guilty while going into church. And it sort of sometimes made you feel bad. But over time, you know, I have actually become a Unitarian. And we embrace that because it's all inclusive and it's about the goodness in people. That God, you know, loves us and that he assumes that we are good. And also it just assumes that we have a moral compass inside us. And we kind of know what's right. And I write in the book, actually, I take my belief from something Abraham Lincoln said. He said in 1860, he said, when I do good, I feel good, when I do bad, I feel bad and that's my religion. And I think we all know that. We can understand that.

KING: We'll be back with more of Christopher Reeve, but before we go to break, another preview of Tuesday's "Smallville," coming on the WB network.


C. REEVE: I'm not trying to expose you, Clark, I'm just -- I'm just seeking the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry, doctor. The truth is, I'm not who you think I am.

C. REEVE: Well, if you can live with that decision, then so can I.

But if you walk out that door, it will never be open to you again. And you'll never know the second part of the message.



KING: We're back with Christopher Reeve and his wife Dana Reeve. The book is "Nothing is Impossible."

Metairie, Louisiana, Hello.



CALLER: I have been paralyzed for a few months now. And I just want to know, like, I heard all the remarkable things about how he's recovering. And I just think that's so amazing. I just want to know how all that's happening. I want to know if it's possible that I could actually have that done to me or many people are getting it done. I don't know.

KING: Are you paralyzed waist down, sir?

CALLER: From the T-3. That's around the chest.

KING: OK. Chris, I guess you know what that is.


C. REEVE: Yes. You have a really good shot because there is something called treadmill walking therapy which is now being done at many centers around the country. And people have -- who have your level of injury, you've got upper body. You can use your arms I assume. And what you do is get to one of these centers and you go on a treadmill for about an hour a day for about 60 days and after that time you'll be able to walk on your own. It's been done already in about 500 people in this country.

KING: Wow. You explain...

C. REEVE: Let me tell you how to do this. If go to, and that will get you to our resource center and we can help you.

KING: Carmel, Indiana, hello.

CALLER: Yes, hi Larry, Chris and Dana.


CALLER: I actually have two questions.

KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: If you were to have, let's say, appendicitis attack, or an ulcer, how would you detect it? And my second question is, what do you do to help prevent osteoporosis?

KING: Two great questions.

C. REEVE: Well, I'm lucky. First of all, I had my appendix out when I was about 12. So that was easy. I actually did have ulcers as a result of the injury because a spinal cord injury affects every organ in the body. And fortunately the ulcers did go away after about a month. And the second part of the question...

D. REEVE: To interject, he can feel hunger and stomach pain and so you can tell.

KING: So in other words, if you had, God forbid, angina pain, you would feel it?

C. REEVE: Yes, absolutely.

KING: Second part was how do you prevent osteoporosis? C. REEVE: Right. The way you prevent osteoporosis is by bearing weight, by standing, which is done with a tilt table. You lie horizontal and you get strapped on and then you stand vertically and also you take massive doses of calcium. I, in fact, developed severe osteoporosis, but was put on a course of calcium and a drug called Eridia (ph) every two months. And I have gone from severe osteoporosis back to having the bones I had when I was 30. So osteoporosis can be reversed totally.

KING: Hayward, California, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, first of all, I want to let you know that you've been a big inspiration to me and my family. I have been battling breast cancer, bone cancer and now leukemia all within the last year. And I just want to know how you both stay so motivated and keep your faith and stay strong and stay together.

C. REEVE: I think...

KING: Dana, you want to start with that?

C. REEVE: That's all right, you go ahead.

KING: Dana, you start.

D. REEVE: I think -- I mean, what you're battling is you have one thing after another. And my heart goes out to you. We support one another and one of the things that both of us have found, that when we're feeling sorry for ourselves, the first thing we try to do is reach out to help someone else. And it's amazing how you can start feeling better because of that. That's one of the things. What were you going to say, honey?

C. REEVE: Not much more I could add to that, really. That's such a great answer.

D. REEVE: And a support system. It's key to have a support system. We have people who work for us who are incredible. Family members who are incredible. And I hope that you have the same because that sounds like you're going through a lot.

KING: Christopher, aren't there days when you get down?

C. REEVE: Sure, absolutely.

KING: And what do you do?

REEVE: Take action. And I think whether you're on your feet or not, whether you're healthy or not, it doesn't matter. The thing to do whenever you're feeling depressed is you cannot go down that spiral into negativity about yourself. And the way out of it is to do something active. For example, I'll do extra physical exercise, or make sure I really pay extra attention to Dana or the kids.

D. REEVE: Or reach out to friends. C. REEVE: Or reach out to friends, or do some work. But it's about being action -- in action. And also, getting the attention off yourself. That's number one.

D. REEVE: Yeah.

KING: By the way, Chris, are you going to act and direct again?

C. REEVE: I'll be directing. Hopefully in the spring. And -- but no plans for -- sorry. No plans for acting right now, but directing coming up.

KING: I bet you could do a role, couldn't you?

C. REEVE: Well, what's amazing is that I acted for 35 years and never won an award. And then I did a movie, "Rear Window," after I was injured, and I got the Screen Actors Guild award for best actor. Go figure. Who knows?

KING: We'll be back with more of Christopher Reeve and his wife Dana on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. More phone calls, too. Don't go away.


C. REEVE: After dark, this whole building goes from a PG-13 to a hard R.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Care to be more specific? Remember, God is in the details.

C. REEVE: Come on over some night, see for yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe I will. We'll probably end up fighting over this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're putting in another one upstais in the bedroom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You guys are obsessed.

C. REEVE: You know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ring side seat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you were my neighbor and I knew you ahd this...

C. REEVE: Would you put on a floor show?


C. REEVE: If you were my neigbor, I'd be watching you the whole time.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We're back with Christopher Reeve, his wife Dana. The book is "Nothing Is Impossible." Back to the calls. San Martin, California, hello.



CALLER: I have two questions, actually.


CALLER: OK. The first question is, how voluntary is your movement? I'm in a wheelchair, and I find that I can actually move my leg if I pull real hard. And my second question is, do you have pain, and how do you deal with it?

C. REEVE: Fortunately the movements that we're talking about are all voluntary, and most of them I do against resistance to build up strength. So if I'm lying in bed with my knee bent and my foot in somebody's shoulder, I have them offer a lot of resistance so I have to push hard to strengthen the muscle. And the second part of the question is, luckily, I don't suffer any pain whatsoever. Often, that happens in spinal cord patients, who develop cysts or cavities, but that hasn't happened to me.

KING: I know that amputees claim that they can sometimes feel their arm and feel their finger.

D. REEVE: Phantom pain.

KING: Phantom pain. Do you get that, Chris?

C. REEVE: No, because I have normal sensation or -- sorry. Nearly normal sensation over about 70 percent of my body. So there's no phantom sensation.

KING: Lake Elsinore, California for the Reeves, hello.



CALLER: My nephew broke his neck a couple of weeks ago, the number one vertebrae. And he's still in critical care. What can we do to help him out mentally, to try to uplift his spirits? Because he has bad days and good days. And we're kind of stuck. And also, therapy-wise, when he gets his neck set, hopefully this Thursday, where do we go from there?

C. REEVE: Well, it's going to be absolutely critical to find a progressive rehab center, where they're going to do more than the bare minimum. And also, to protect him from any further injury. But he needs to start exercising as soon as possible, you know, once he's stabilized from the surgery. And again, do not accept any absolutes from doctors. In other words, you have no idea what might happen. So what I'm saying is it's the same injury I did. My first vertebrae was so decimated that my head was not connected to my body. And five years later, seven years later, I'm moving.

D. REEVE: But also, again, will get you to the resource center if you need a list of rehab hospitals or practical steps you need to take from the point where he's passed the acute phase into the rehab phase.

KING: Everyone should make a note, the caller as well, of that Internet site, I'm sorry. Go ahead, Chris.

C. REEVE: Larry, if I may. If people would like to get to the foundation to help us...

KING: Oh, sure.

C. REEVE: ... to raise money, if I could just say that there's a couple ways to do it.

D. REEVE: To help the foundation, not us.

C. REEVE: And by the way, I take no money from the foundation.

D. REEVE: Right.

C. REEVE: They don't even pay for gas for the car to come to meetings.

KING: How can people help?

C. REEVE: By donating to just And you can also make a donation through Sorry,


KING: I don't know, I'm ignorant, I don't know the difference between org and com. It's all a big blob (ph) to me.

D. REEVE: Clearly to him as well.

KING: Lincoln, Nebraska, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Mr. King. Thanks for the time.

KING: You're welcome.

CALLER: Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Reeve.

C. REEVE: Hi there.


CALLER: How do you avoid pressure sores, and when they happen, how do you make them go away?

C. REEVE: Well, I have had my share of pressure sores, that's for sure.

KING: What is that, Chris?

C. REEVE: A pressure sore develops because you can't move enough.

D. REEVE: It's skin breakdown.

C. REEVE: The skin breakdown, and it usually happens in the sacral area, from being seated so long. You try to avoid it by moving back and forth, just tilting your chair every 30 minutes or so, and also being turned in bed at night. But good nutrition is very, very important. Maintaining circulation, once again, that's exercise. But I have had some really bad ones. But the good news is that I have recovered. And you can recover, too.

KING: To Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Reeve. It is a pleasure to be speaking with you. I wanted to ask, what is your most inspirational message that you can give to families who are going through similar circumstances?

KING: Are you, ma'am? Caller, are you going through a circumstance?

CALLER: No, I'm not.

KING: Oh, you just want what the message would be?

CALLER: Well, I just feel that they are inspirational to all of us who are watching them, and I'm wondering what is the most inspirational message that they can give to families who are going through similar circumstances.

KING: Got it.

D. REEVE: There is hope, I think.

C. REEVE: Yes.

D. REEVE: Three simple words.


D. REEVE: Well, no, I think that that is -- if you're going to encapsulate it, there is hope. And that through every dark corridor, there is some door that's going to lead to light. And it takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of support. That's easy after-isms to say, not so much to live. But there really is hope.

C. REEVE: And the other thing is that hope -- hope, I say this in my book in an essay called "The Lighthouse," is that hope is different from optimism or wishful thinking. And hope has to be built on the same solid foundation as a lighthouse. But thankfully, where we are now with science and where we are with physical therapy, it's tremendous what's happening, the breakthroughs all around the world. So when I say to people who are paralyzed or suffering from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and leukemia, et cetera, this is really the dawning of a new age of real hope.

KING: We will take a break and be back with our remaining moments with the -- boy, if I think back to the first time I interviewed Chris after the accident on a rainy day in New York City, what a difference. Christopher Reeve and Dana Reeve. The book is "Nothing is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life." Back with our remaining moments after this.


KING: We're back. Herbster, Wisconsin for the Reeves, hello.

CALLER: Yes. I wanted to ask, if they approve stem cell research, how long do you think it will be until they begin the surgeries?

C. REEVE: Well, stem cells are the research with embryonic stem cells and stem cells derived from nucleus transplantation. It's still in its infancy because of political controversy in the federal government, which now fortunately has been broken through and adopted by California. But I think they're going to be able to start getting this into humans within the next three years or so.

KING: Last call. Kanata, Canada, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Chris and Dana. I just wanted to say what an inspiration you both are. The love you share is unbelievable. My question is, you have children and I have a daughter who's extremely in love with horses. And the love of riding is a passion that I have never seen. If you could offer any advice as far as safety. As a mother, it's a big fear. I don't have the love of horses but she truly does.

KING: That's a great question. We've got about 45 seconds, Chris, what advice would you give to the horsemen and horseladies?

C. REEVE: OK. Wear a helmet. Don't exceed your abilities. But as a parent, don't make your child afraid. Because if she does it with fear then she might be injured. But my daughter Alexandra, who I taught to ride, she gave it up for a while. And I said, no, continue, you love it. And now she's playing polo for Yale. So you have got to let people go ahead and do their thing and do it safely.

KING: Thank you both so much. You're an inspiration to everybody. And I always love seeing you.

D. REEVE: Thanks, Larry.

REEVE: Larry, thank you so much.


KING: Christopher Reeve has clearly come a long way. How far? Here's a look back at our first interview with him after he was paralyzed. I wanted to know how much he remembered about the day that completely changed his life.


C. REEVE: I remember warming up. I remember getting my horse ready to warm up for the cross country. See this is a three day event. There are three phases. I had already done dressage and then we do cross country and then later the next day will be show jumping. Its all three phases. So and this was down in Culpepper, Virginia, a beautiful place.

KING: In the cross country.

C. REEVE: Love it down there. But anyway...

KING: ...your passport.

C. REEVE: I remember getting my horse ready for cross country and you put on all your stuff including a serious crash helmet, including a chest protector and mind you this is something I've been doing for years. In fact, I was third in the New England championships last year. Not to brag; but this is not something you do for a wimp on a Sunday afternoon. I was prepared and ready and I had a wonderful horse. I still love him and his name's Eastern Express.

KING: Do you see him?

C. REEVE: He's gone to one of the best trainers in New England, Jim Stamidts (ph) and unfortunately, he's for sale because I won't be riding anytime right away, but he's under the best of care.

Anyway I hopped on and the next thing remember is about four or five days after the accident coming to in the hospital.

KING: This is a key to -- help me with this. When you open your eyes, you're in a hospital. What's your first thought?

C. REEVE: It can't be me.

KING: Do you think you fell off a horse?

C. REEVE: No recollection. Guys gotten very lucky is the first thing I remember is my wife, Dana coming to my side and then I opened my eyes and there Dana was. And ...

KING: No feelings?

C. REEVE: My situation -- no, are you kidding. I was snowed. I was on every drug they've every concocted plus a few more.

KING: Did she tell you what happened?

C. REEVE: They had to keep me in traction. So the main thing about the spine you want to prevent swelling. And then swelling is ennapus (ph), swelling makes it worse and if you move -- if you move at all you'll in big, big trouble that's why getting somebody off the field like that is pretty critical. And I'm very lucky to -- you would have lost me there. But fortunately as I went over the horse, the reason entered into myself, is that my hands got caught in the horse's bridle and it came off with me.

So he suddenly refused to jump, unfortunately, and I went down with my hands tangled. So all I -- normally this would have been a sprained wrist and me being mad and that's it. This was very, very odd and very unusual, but anyway I woke up in a hospital about Wednesday and I injured myself on a Saturday.

KING: No anger toward the horse?

REEVE: No anger towards the horse. No, I was surprised. I mean he'd never done that before. He was my new horse and he's been doing cross-country since 12. Very experienced horse and there is conflicting reports as to what happened. Some people say that a rabbit suddenly ran out from the under brush and that spooked him for a second.

And you know, we're going fairly fast, too. This is cross- country, you're not hanging about, you're galloping the jumps not cantering them. So we were cruising right along and he just suddenly put on the brakes and this is what I'm told. And I did a field goal through ears, but I took the bridle with me.

KING: When you wife told you what happened and the condition you were in; were they directly honest with you? Did they tell you what had happened to the spine?

REEVE: Well, oh yes. And the thing was they didn't -- were working out at that time what to do. Because there's a lot of different disagreements about what you do to someone. The first thing they had to do is they had to stabilize my spine so I was there in traction with screws in my head and a big heavy sort of ball kind of holding me down. So I couldn't move and I couldn't eat anything. They washed my mouth out occasionally with a little orange and raspberry swabs.

I thought I was done for and the thing is the doctors, I had one of the greatest surgeons in the world, Dr. John James, and I'm very lucky that I ended up there instead of like East Elbow someplace and he performed really a miraculous operation that allows me to be recovering the way I am today. But they weren't sure. They said we can't guarantee anything. 50/50, we'll see.

KING: You call yourself a high quad?

REEVE: Yes, high quad means C-1 and C-2. You can't break it any higher than that.

KING: When you were OK...

REEVE: But when I do it I did fully, I go all out.

KING: I know, Chris. I know, you don't -- it's not halfway.

REEVE: I don't waste any time.

KING: When you were OK, do you remember back to what you would think when you saw people in wheelchairs?

REEVE: I have to admit that you think, oh boy I'm glad it's not me.

KING: There but for the grace of God...


KING: A lot of people don't like to look at people in wheelchairs.

REEVE: I'm willing to look. You know what's odd is how people...

KING: Turn away...

REEVE: No. People walk and I can sense they go I don't how we're going to him or what to do. And they're immediately put at ease. I can sense that they get over it very quickly. I've never seen anybody feel awkward as many, many visitors come and quickly they just look pass the chair.

KING: Did you every think as you thought in the last movie did when you were in a wheelchair and that was great suspense movie, by the way, they ought to show that ...

REEVE: "Above Suspicion." Yes.

KING: But in that movie you were faming to be someone who wanted to take his own life because he'd given up hope. OK...

REEVE: Unbelievable. Go figure.

KING: Did you ever think of not wanting to live?

REEVE: I thought for about 10 minutes when I first was in the intensive care and when I first realized what my situation was I thought maybe I'm too much trouble. Maybe this would just be too hard on everybody, maybe I should just check out. And my wife, my beautiful extraordinary wife Dana, put the end to end with one sentence. She said but you're still you and I love you. End of story.

And then my three children came in Matthew, Alexandra, and Will and our family was together and I thought no way I'm going to miss this. This is my family.

KING: So now you don't feel like you put...

REEVE: Never. I've never even thought about it since May -- whatever -- well no, June 1 whatever or whenever that Wednesday was. KING: Once you decided the family loves you, you love them, this is a partnership; there was no more going back.

REEVE: And you know what you learn -- there's a lot of people been in chairs longer than me that can tell you better. But you learn that the stuff of your life -- I was a sailor, I was a skier, I was a rider, I did a not of stuff. A lot of accidents, I'm a very sports oriented, etc. I've travelled everywhere and you realize that is not the definition or the essence of your existence.

But is the essence are those relationships with people in that room, that right there. And while my relations were always good, I mean now they have transcended. My son and I and my wife and I, you know so that why I can honestly say I'm a lucky man.

KING: Back with more of Christopher Reeve after this.


KING: We're back with Christopher Reeve.

I don't know why but people thought that regarding you, money would not be a problem. That either you were wealthy or...

REEVE: Have you seen my career lately?

KING: No, but you were a horse person in Culpepper, Virginia. Chris Reeve is OK.

REEVE: Well, I'll tell you what, I've made some really bad investments in the 80s.

KING: Is this breaking you?

REEVE: It would if I couldn't find work, absolutely. Yes.

KING: You are going to find work?

REEVE: I am going to find work. But the thing is we have to completely redo my house. Otherwise, I'm stuck in two rooms. It's not that that's not much of a future.

KING: What kind of work?

REEVE: ...we get an elevator. Do you know how expensive an elevator is? Have you every tried to put an elevator in? I don't recommend it. It's about $70,000 bucks and we have a lot of -- it's a lot to do.

KING: What kind of work do you want to do?

REEVE: Well, I'm going to direct. I'm actually going to write a book. I'm going to give speeches around the country. I'm not going to sit home and watch the grass grow.

KING: What about sexual things? REEVE: They're there. I'm like a high school senior.

KING: What do you do with that?

REEVE: Wel,l when my wife knows and it gets a lot of attention. She walks to the room and I'm practically leering at her; it's really embarrassing.

KING: What do you do with it though?

REEVE: Well, fortunately; it's autonomic reflex.

KING: Oh, that's still...?

REEVE: So it works. Yes.

KING: Hey. One great thing to hear, right.

REEVE: Plus the fact, you know, that thing has a mind of its own. That's true.

KING: You've learned that, right. You've been attested?


Food, eating, do you eat anything?

REEVE: Now I eat like a chow hound. Before I'll tell you a terrible thing happened. From the day of my accident until about six weeks ago, I was never hungry and my sense of smell was so intense I couldn't stand the sight of food or the smell. Any kind of food was just really repugnant and they feed me through a tube.

At night I'd be fed through a tube and to miss eating was really terrible. Now I come home and the wonderful Dana prepares, being home and the family atmosphere and I'm cleaning the plate start to finish.

KING: What about the Robin Williams story and his health?

REEVE: Robin Williams is the definition of generosity. He and Marsha.

KING: Are you old friends?

REEVE: For 22 years we go back to Julliard together and the man again just defines generosity, said whatever I can do to help. But there is this crazy cockamamie story that went around that we had signed some pact.

KING: Pact?

REEVE: Yes, like what on a napkin in the cafeteria in Julliard or something.

KING: Saying what?

REEVE: That if either of us gets in trouble that we'll take care of each other in the future.


Listen, I'm going to help myself. I'm going to take care of myself the best I can because the one thing you want when you're injured -- you ask anybody -- did you ask him got a problem. You want control and you want your self respect. You don't want to take charity.

KING: So how do you feel when it's given to you?

REEVE: Well I feel very grateful if it's charity that I can accept. Where I feel that in some way I can pay the person back or whatever...

KING: Do you owe Robin Williams some kind of debt?

REEVE: But just an emotional debt and a huge debt of friendship. As of yet I don't owe a nickel and I'd like to keep it that way.

KING: How about other people and people's reactions to you? We were a little surprised by the worldwide attention this got.

REEVE: Stunned because basically I was hanging out in Bedford, New York, where we lived training my horse six days a week to be ready for these competitions and you forget that there's a big world outside because my wife and I really enjoyed the fact that we have a new little guy, Will our little fellow and we didn't want to bring him in the city after 20 years.

We enjoy the city but we also like our privacy in the country. So in a way, I'd go off to work but I kind of forget that anybody watching. I sort of forget.

KING: So you thought you were a what forgotten actor?

REEVE: No not a forgotten actor. But not the kind of public figure who has a problem going down the street like a Mel Gibson or something.

KING: So you were shocked?

REEVE: So well when I got 300,000 letters from people all over the world, the outpouring of love and sympathy and concern and caring, I was blown away and I must say that's what got me through those days.

What I used to do down in the University of Virginia when I was in intensive care, they let me get up one hour a day to get use to being upright in a wheelchair and that's pretty heavy duty because your blood pressure falls apart and you really feel weird and etc. But they would wheel me down to the sun room and I would sit there with a blanket like a little old man and my family would read me these letters from around the world and that get me going.

The love of may family and the support of people around the world is just... KING: This Chris Reeve -- the Chris Reeve I know of is not an emotional person or if he is he's certainly holds it in. Agreed?

REEVE: I guess so, yes.

KING: You hide. If one cannot picture Chris Reeve weeping.

REEVE: I don't, I don't. No not on an interview show.

KING: We'll be right back with Christopher Reeve. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Christopher Reeve. Now that you've seen it from both sides, what can you say first to people who can walk and run and jump when they see someone?

REEVE: I say, first of all, be grateful that you can walk and run and jump.

KING: So be grateful, be aware...

REEVE: Enjoy yourself while you're walking, running or jumping.

KING: And know that it can go away?

REEVE: Yes. It can go away to anybody, it can happen to anybody.

KING: And what do you say to people who have just gotten into this? Someone watching tonight who has just got in the chair?

REEVE: Well, I'm going to give you an example. You will feel, why me, you will feel life is unfair, you will feel thoughts that, you know, maybe it's not worth it. And be brave, push through it, you'll come out the other side. And turn to people. I mean, I am getting all kinds of calls now from people who are in that situation and want to know what to do. I went back to the rehab center to go visit some people who were, you know, stuck and wanted help. And you turn to people who have gone to the other side, you see that it can be done.

KING: Do you have faith?

REEVE: Yes, I do have faith. I wore a chain I used to get stuck around my neck, and get in the way of my (UNINTELLIGIBLE), so I took it off. My wife wears it all the time, together with my wedding ring, which doesn't fit on my finger anymore.

KING: The chain is what?

REEVE: It just says, faith, and it's my wedding ring, you know.

KING: Now, you just moved your leg?

REEVE: No, it moved by itself. What that is it's my body saying like, hey, brain, let's go.

KING: Wait a minute. Your body is saying, hey, brain, let's go?

REEVE: That's right. All the nerves are intact, all the muscles.

KING: It wants to...

REEVE: It wants to go, and so it's kind of spontaneously moving...

KING: But you don't feel it.

REEVE: Oh, sure I feel it. I feel it more in the left leg than in the right leg, but it's like I've got the army here but the general's missing.

KING: For want of a better term, it's got to be cooky.

REEVE: No, I've gotten used to it. For one thing, it helps keep your muscles in tone, you know, and again, the more you stay in shape the day you can walk, the better it's going to be.


KING: What an amazing story. We'll continue to follow Christopher Reeve as he re-writes medical textbooks. And don't forget to catch him in "Smallville" this Tuesday night on the WB network, and don't forget to catch us again tomorrow night. Until then, good night.


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