Nothing is Impossible by Christopher Reeve: a book review
- Created on Sunday, 19 December 2010 22:28
Nothing is Impossible was the second book written by Christopher Reeve after his catastrophic equestrian accident in 1995 that left him paralyzed from the shoulders down. The first was his highly acclaimed autobiography, Still Me, which I have not read. Nothing is Impossible is a compilation of speeches he gave from his wheelchair after the accident.
The book is well written and easy to read, and very inspiring. He admits that upon awaking from his coma and realizing what condition he was in, he immediately contemplated suicide. But, his wife Dana pleaded with him not to, and so he didn't. Instead, he fought valiantly for 9 years to regain his life, his purpose, and his productivity, which he did. It was an amazing display of courage and perseverance and hard work, and I say that realizing that I would not have done it. I am very sure that I would have directed them to cease my life support and let me go-although hopefully in a way that spared me additional pain. I would not have had the will to go on living after that. But, I am still very moved by his willingness to try to cope with it all, and cope he did.
I have the feeling that this book is going to remain in my consciousness- always. Anytime I start feeling overwhelmed by anything, I will remember what he went through, and instantly, I'll snap out of it.
We should take inspiration from what he did as a person- and also from what his body did as an organism. His spinal cord was completely severed at the level of the 2nd cervical vertebra. That means that his body, including his muscles, his organs, his skin- it was all cut off from cerebral control. No signals from the brain would ever get past the injury site again. But to everyone's surprise, they did. Five years later, he began moving his right index finger, then his other fingers, and eventually, he was able to move his whole hand. It could only mean one thing: the nerves, the connections within the spinal cord, must have grown back to some extent. Also, he eventually regained his ability to breathe without the ventilator for as long as 30 minutes.
Through it all, he tried to live as normal a life as possible. He described how, from his wheelchair, he taught his 6 year old son, Will, how to ride a bicycle. This really piqued my interest because I recalled what I went through teaching my son how to ride, and then years later, teaching two of my grandchildren. Christopher Reeve did it from a wheelchair using only words. It was the boy, the bike, and Christopher's verbal instructions, and nothing else. And he succeeded. And when I read the instructions he gave to the boy, I realized that they were the most concise, efficient, and perfect instructions that he could possibly have communicated. It was better than what I would have thought to say myself, and I have been an avid rider my whole life. It's amazing that he did it, and it is equally amazing that he even thought that he could do it.
There is also an interesting section in the book on the Mind-Body. He recounts how he developed a pressure wound on his ankle. Even though they turned him over every two hours every night to prevent such wounds from forming, sometimes they occurred anyway. And this one was bad. It went deep- all the way to the bone- and it became badly infected. The doctors wanted to amputate above the knee to save his life. But, he said no to that. It took a long time, but eventually, it did heal- completely. And he believed that his thought processes and his will, i.e. his "mind over matter," played a crucial role in that recovery. However, the paradox is that there was no connection between his mind (i.e. his brain) and his ankle. Or was there?
There is also an interesting chapter on his experience with Scientology, which happened long before his catastrophic accident. Let's just say that his reaction to Scientology was very different from that of Tom Cruise. It was the Unitarian Church that gave Christopher Reeve solace.
There was also a chapter on his advocacy for stem cell research which I found to be both highly impassioned and very logical and convincing.
In the end, it was a pressure wound that defeated Christopher Reeve. As had happened many times before, he was given a very powerful antibiotic to treat the sepsis from a pressure wound, and it was the adverse reaction to that very strong antibiotic that caused him to go into cardiac arrest and die. That was on October 10, 2004, and he was 52 years old.
But one thing is for sure: Christopher Reeve endured. He was Superman.