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Too late for Superman

Anyone old enough to remember the four Superman movies in which Christopher Reeve played the superhero must, somewhere, still miss him. I know I do. There are other superheroes—where would our miserable and often brutish humankind be if it weren’t rescued, time and again, by assorted Spidermen, Batmen, and other good guys wearing spandex and endowed with amazing powers? But Superman is the only one who can fix everything and Christopher Reeve embodied him to perfection.

It was a singular twist of fate that he, of all people, would, in 1995, have a horseback riding accident that paralyzed him from the neck down. But even in a wheelchair, even with a respirator, the actor remained the epitome of bravura. No one tried as hard to help himself (and others, through the Foundation he set up). No one but Superman would have had the gumption to endure, day in and day out, the grueling exercise and training regimen that he followed, hoping to, wanting to, walk again. He never did and died in 2004.

Statistics tell us that there are annually 50,000 victims of spinal cord injury, 12,000 in the U.S. alone. Scientists the world over work on finding a way to help them regain motion. Over the years, enormous progress has been made and the “rewalk “process is gaining extensive use. The cutting edge research and technology make it conceivable that people with severe spinal cord injuries can one day lead an almost normal life. Not today and maybe not even tomorrow but a very real possibility exists where there was hardly any.

No better way to get a reprieve from our messy world than to watch the segments of the Project Rewalk documentary from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL). I did, enthralled, not wanting to miss even the bonus features. What scientists have achieved here makes the imagination take flight. The experimentation with rats, though, is hard to take for this animal lover. It’s more than disturbing to see the brave little creatures, harnessed and equipped with electrodes, working hard to walk again, and to know that they didn’t become paralyzed as humans do, through car crash, sports injury or war, but had their spine severed in order to serve science.  A great shame, like all animal experimentation, but how to weigh that against helping people who have sustained terrible injuries regain their life?  There is no answer. Anyway, it’s too late for Superman.

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  1. Melinda Barnhardt Jud
    October 3, 2012 at 1:43 am

    A lovely, evocative piece, and a beautiful way to bring this new work to our attention.

    Like

  2. Nancy Richard
    October 3, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    enjoyed your post Saideh –

    Like

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