2008 has been a year marred by injuries to horses and people riding them.
When I see a rider go down, it reminds me of the accident that paralyzed and ultimately killed Christopher Reeve.
Like Rock Hudson for AIDS and Lou Gehrig for ALS, Reeve put a famous and courageous face on an ailment. Because of Reeve, money and resources have been devoted to possible cures for spinal cord injuries.
I work with lesser-known people who benefited from the attention that Christopher Reeve brought to spinal injuries. These aren’t famous movie stars. They are people hit by a truck or who fell on a slippery floor.
Like Reeve, their lives changed in one second.
Christopher Reeve allowed the world to have an insight into his injuries. He was a famous, good-looking guy with resources.
Few people with a spinal cord injuries have that kind of money and support. They also don’t have the ability to command public attention they way that Reeve did.
It would have been easy for Reeve to suffer in silence. He chose to be an advocate instead.
An injury can bring out the best or worst in an injured person’s family. I’ve seen families show love and support that seems super human.
I’ve also seen family members be insensitive and cruel.
I saw the wife of a quadriplegic say, in front of her husband, that she was tired of taking care of a cripple in a wheelchair. Tears started running down her husband’s face and he could not move his hands to wipe them away.
Friends of the injured person often drift away. They go on with their lives and forget about their friend who is struggling.
An injured man told me that his goal was to someday drive to each of his old friends’ houses and honk the horn so that they knew he was still alive.
Love has a tremendous power to make sick people better. I’ve seen family members help their loved ones improve physically and emotionally.
Government benefits for injured people aren’t as good as they should be. Many government agencies have started outsourcing benefit programs to big companies. The companies make injured people fill out reams after reams of needless forms. Sometimes, they cut off an injured person’s benefits just because they didn’t fill the paperwork out quickly enough.
I helped a quadriplegic man get some government benefits he deserved. When I finished, he asked his wife to hug me because he couldn’t.
It is hard not to root for a guy like that.
Christopher Reeve was able to bring in dollars for research for spinal cord injuries. There may be a day that my friend can hug me himself. Reeve focused attention on scientific solutions and let the world know that injured people need help and support.
Christopher Reeve’s injury changed and shortened his life, but it was a path that allowed him to make a great impact on the world. He was a pretty good actor, but few actors make the mark on society that Christopher Reeve did.
I’m hoping the run of horse-related injuries has ended. I’m also hoping that people with spinal cord injuries will some day be able to fully recover.
Reeve played a super hero in the movies. Real super heroes are not actors. Real super heroes are injured people and their families who deal with life-changing injuries with love, courage and compassion.
Superman and Green Lantern ain’t got nothing on them.
Don McNay is the chairman of the board for McNay Settlement Group in Richmond, Ky. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or read his award-winning column at www.donmcnay.com. McNay is the treasurer for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
By Don McNay
“Superman or Green Lantern ain’t got nothing on me”
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