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Mind Over Matter At Vital Times

Aug 21, 2008
When a person suffers a personal injury, particularly of a serious nature, it can be very hard to find the will to pick up and carry on. There are many causes of injury on this scale and any one of them can happen in the blink of an eye. Car crashes are the most common, where the body is propelled forward at an alarming rate, this will often cause serious personal injury to either the head or spinal cord. Other activities, such as diving or horse riding are also often responsible for catastrophic injuries.

When you think of the ultimate in a healthy body, you could do worse than think of the actor, Christopher Reeve. This was one man who put his all into everything he did. Always an avid sportsman, even from an early age, Reeve was enthusiastic in soccer, baseball, tennis and hockey and later in life moving on to sailing, scuba diving, aviation, skiing, cycling, windsurfing, parasailing, gliding, and mountain climbing. It's no wonder he was the perfect physical specimen to play the role of Superman. This, and the fact that acting was this other great love of his life after sports.

Playing the part of Superman saw Reeve dressed in the trademark lycra and tights and little was left to the imagination regarding his physique. Everything this man did, he put his all into. Later in life, Reeve discovered a love of horse riding and once again, pushed himself to his limits by competing in show jumping events. It was during one of these events that his horse was spooked and propelled Reeve forwards onto his head. Avoiding brain damage due to his protective headwear, he did, however, suffer a personal injury on a calamitous level.

Reeve's first and second vertebrae were completely shattered, leaving him paralysed from the neck down and without even the ability to breathe without assistance. In an event that took moments to occur, this man's life was transformed in a way you could never possibly dream of. After one initial incidence when he considered ending his life, he quickly moved on to regain his fighting spirit and live his life with the same determination it seemed he had been born with to live life to the fullest extent possible.

Having a young son at this time would have been a mixed blessing for Reeve. We never want to leave our children so they tend to spur you on to fight for life but it would also have been heartbreaking that he couldn't partake in all the activities that most fathers join in with.

However, this man's determination astounded his doctors. Small steps were his goal to begin with, anything that would make him feel he was regaining some independence, and the first of these was to regain the ability to breathe without assistance. On his first attempt, it was impossible, but once he knew what he was working towards, he was able to be removed from the respirator within days.

At one particular session with his doctor, he was asked if he thought there had been any movement in his recovery. At this point, Reeve raised an index finger voluntarily and completely shocked his doctor. Any movement below the point of injury on the spine is usually impossible. With Reeve's particular injury you couldn't have got much worse. His head was not actually connected to his spinal column until after extensive surgery to reconnect the two. This was internal decapitation and an unusual personal injury to survive.

This is why the doctors were so shocked that breathing or finger movements were possible at all but simply go to show the impact of mind over matter. Of course, this won't happen with everyone who suffers this type of injury but it is important to accept all the counselling on offer in order to stay as positive as possible.
About the Author
Health expert Catherine Harvey looks at the way a personal injury can have such a devastating effect on a person.
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