Christopher Reeve doesn't remember much about the day in 1995 at a Culpeper, Va., cross-country riding competition when his horse, Buck, racing toward an easy jump, unaccountably halted. Thrown forward, his hands apparently tangled in the reins, Reeve landed on his head, snapping his neck.
"Still Me" is about how it feels, having been athletic all one's life -- diving, flying, sailing, horse-riding -- to wake up completely paralyzed and dependent. It is about growing up in New Jersey trying to be "perfect" for an uncaring father, only to find oneself hooked up to life-support machines, assaulted by feelings of humiliation, terror and suicide.
Christopher Reeve has written a relevant and timely book that demonstrates the struggle of coming to terms with complete disability and finding a reason to fight on. The book focuses on Reeves successful past and ties it together with his fight to advance the funding and research of spinal cord injuries. His focus of success has shifted to helping others instead of advancing his career.
One of the book's bigger surprises is that despite having the best available medical care -- it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a year -- Reeve has been in very shaky health since the accident. Eleven times he has been returned to the hospital, often with life-threatening trouble: pneumonia, a collapsed lung, two blood clots, an infection that nearly forced the partial amputation of a leg.
The reality is that he is society's best disabled friend. His friendship with society can symbolize the relationship all disabled people can have with society. Reeve speaks of the alienation that can occur unknowingly. His mother gave up hope and urged the doctors to pull the plug immediately following the freak accident. And when Reeve did ultimately regain consciousness and realized the gravity of his injury he considered suicide. It was the love he felt for his wife and his family that eliminated that option, and is the source of the title of the book. Still Me has a dual meaning. It refers to Reeves physical stillness resulting from the paralysis, and it recalls a conversation he had with his wife, Dana, when he discussed with her his thoughts about ending his life. She replied, "I want you to know that I'll be with you for the long haul, no matter what. You're still you. And I love you." Until there are cures, maybe there can be life in the disabled homes, good jobs with open career paths, dates, marriages, and families, parties, ways to get from one location to another, and the comfort of knowing that if they get sick, they won't be encouraged to die because it's cheaper or someone else makes the decision that their quality of life wasn't worth it anyway.