Barnes & Noble Online Chat with Dana Reeve
Date: November 3, 1999
For her first online live chat, Dana Reeve discussed her book Care Packages: Letters to Christopher Reeve from Strangers and Other Friends.
Megan from bn.com: Welcome, Dana Reeve! We are so pleased you could join us this evening to discuss your new book CARE PACKAGES. How are you this evening? Where do we find you? Is Chris nearby?
Dana Reeve: I am so excited to be online with all of you. I've never done this before - can you believe it?! (Actually, I wrote most of my portions of the book longhand with good ol'fashioned paper and pen, and then transcribed it onto my computer. Isn't that pathetic?) I'm not sure I'm really ready for the 21st century. At the moment, I am sitting in our home "office", while Chris is on a plane somewhere between San Jose, California, and here. (He was out there giving a speech.)
D.J. in the U.K. (Dawn) from Hull, England: Greetings from England and a big hello to the Reeve family! I'm a huge fan - I've even created a web site dedicated to Christopher at http://members.xoom.com/djintheuk/djspages. I just wondered if you knew of a release date for CARE PACKAGES in the U.K.? Can't wait to read it!
DR: Hello, D. J. in the U.K.!! I don't know, unfortunately, when the book will be available there, but keep looking.
Katie from Washington: What inspired you to write this book?
DR: Hi Katie from Washington - I got the idea for this book way back in Virginia, when Chris was still in the ICU. All the letters we received were such a source of inspiration, humor, and solace that I felt they should be shared.
Janet Guernsey from Detroit, MI: Were you surprised by how many letters came in? Did you and Chris read every single one? Did you write back to anyone? My prayers are with your family, Dana.
DR: Hi Janet G. - We were stunned beyond belief by how many people contacted us; and yes, we wrote back to many people. Within the first few weeks after Chris's injury, we had family members answer a lot of the letters. For the first couple of months, every single letter was opened by one of us, but then we could no longer keep up.
Cindy from Reno, TX: What is the best piece of advice a letter gave you and your family?
DR: Hi Cindy in Texas - We got so much great advice, it's hard to say, although the letters that offered humor and/or practical advice were great.
Ivan from Sydney, Australia: I do a lot of volunteer work with sick kids, and every now and again, I need a break to stop it all from getting me down. What do you do to cope with the obvious stresses?
DR: G'day Ivan - I try to find something or someone that I truly enjoy - however trivial it may be. I do everything from a taking a walk, to drinking some tea, to phoning someone who I know will make me laugh.
Marcus from Fredricksburg, VA: What is one of your favorite letters in the book?
DR: Hi Marcus in Virginia - It's so hard to pick a favorite, because the book is comprised of my favorites (and even then, some favorites had to be deleted for space reasons. Maybe volume two...?). It's almost like asking me to pick my favorite child. I do love the letter from a little boy who asks Chris "How are your electric pants?" and "Please send me a picture of a salamander."
Greg Richards from Rhode Island: Have there been any significant developments in spinal cord/paralysis research since Chris's accident? Any milestones that you can share with us? Does Chris hold hope that there will be a cure in his lifetime and that he will walk again? Thank you.
DR: Hi Greg - Thanks for asking about the research. Chris would be thrilled at your interest. You can log on to our foundation's web site to find out the latest science. The web site is www.paralysis.org. Chris holds the very realistic hope that a cure will be implemented in his lifetime. Scientists have actually found therapies that have cured lab animals. The next step would be human trials. It's a very exciting area of science right now.
Dawn from Geneva, NY: Hi. You are very inspirational and I was wondering how your son has dealt with all that has happened?
DR: Hi Dawn - Isn't Geneva where Hobart/William Smith is? We are and have always been very honest with our son about what is happening in all areas of his life. In this way, he has learned to trust us when we say "This might be bad, but we are all going to be OK."
Katie from Washington, DC: It must be hard to find anything positive out of what your family has suffered, but have there been any unexpected miracles?
DR: Hi Katie in Washington, DC - There has been a lot of good that has come out of the tremendous losses and hardship we have experienced. One of the miracles was finding out how many people cared. At the start of Chapter One in my book, I quote Einstein: "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is." Worth thinking about, huh?
Monica Marshall from Baltimore, MD: I just bought your book and am really touched by all the letters, especially your own to Chris on your 4th wedding anniversary. What new insights about love and commitment has this tragedy given you? You write that you have "no regrets and that you are grateful that you can follow this path together." Where will your path lead?
DR: Hi Monica from Maryland - One of the many many insights was just how strong a bond Chris and I really have. And another - none of us have any idea where any of our paths will lead, so you better pick carefully who you're going to take along for the ride.
D. J. in the U.K. (Dawn) from Hull, England: "The Gloaming" premiered on U.K. TV this January and I have to say the combination of excellent acting, and directing made the film great - but the ending was the most moving part for me. The song that you sang just captured the whole essence of the film - definitely the best ending to a film I've ever seen. Are there any other projects in the pipeline for you and/or Christopher?
DR: Hi again, D. J. - Chris will be directing a romantic comedy feature film this spring called "Heartbreaker." My project at the moment is promoting my book...!
Susan from Hoffman Estates, IL: You are truly an angel. God bless you always.
DR: Thanks, Susan.
Laurie from Nebraska: Despite the "restriction" of movement that may put limitations on what you and Christopher may have, what are some of the most enjoyable activities you and Chris may have in your time together?
DR: Hi Laurie - We have always loved to have conversations and we still do - sometimes lengthy, esoteric, and deep; sometimes nostalgic, sometimes just stupid or gossipy. We also love to go to the theatre, movies, concerts, hockey games, baseball games, and anything that involves our kids.
Gene Hoak from Williamsburg, VA: What is the thing that a husband (or spouse) in such a situation wants to hear the most? For example, what do you think Christopher wanted most to hear from you? How did you say it to him?
DR: Hi Gene - I can't really speak for Chris, but I know what I would want to hear: "I still you love you; I will continue to love you. We will get through this together, and I promise to keep you challenged and not to pity you."
Michelle Westermeyer from Mahwah, NJ: What is it that you like about playing in a small venue (for example, the NJ Shakespeare Festival's Kirby Theatre)??
DR: Hi Michelle in NJ - I love the intimacy of a small theatre, but I particularly love the Kirby. Isn't it wonderful? Did you see "Enter the Guardsman"?
Claire from San Francisco, CA: Dana, I saw you on "Dateline" the other night, and I was struck by how positive you remain. What are some things you do for yourself everyday to keep your spirits up? What helps you keep your focus and balance, and ward away negativity and depression?
DR: Hi Claire - I am lucky that I tend to be a positive person by nature and, while I am also deeply rooted in reality, I find I can almost always find a way to remain so. I find doing things for others keeps my spirits up to some degree, but no one can do that all the time. Time spent with my very amusing seven-year-old helps a lot, as does singing.
Mary Jamison from Greensburg, VA: Did any letter provoke you to seek out and meet the sender in person?
DR: Hi Mary - I did contact quite a few people by phone, and both Chris and I have met people who have needed some inspiration to get through an ordeal, but believe it or not, I am actually a very private person and would normally not seek someone out.
Carolyn Goodrich from Rushville, IL: Is Christopher in constant pain?
DR: Hi Carolyn - Thankfully, Chris very rarely experiences any pain whatsoever.
Beth from Allentown, PA: As a caretaker, wife, and friend to Christopher, how do you continue to help him and keep from losing yourself in the circumstances? How do you keep your own identity? My prayers are with you.
DR: Hi Beth - it is so important as a caregiver not to become so enmeshed in the role that you lose yourself. It's neither good for you nor your loved one. I make sure I pursue my own interests and career, and Chris encourages me to do so.
Megan from bn.com: Do you read to Christopher? Does he like to listen to audiobooks? What are some of his favorites?
DR: Hi Megan - I love to read to Chris. One of our recent favorites was TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE. He loves audiobooks. Recent faves are A CIVIL ACTION and anything about the Civil War.
Kristen from Upstairs: Hi Dana - I have read your book and I just wanted you to know that I loved it. You did an amazing job putting it together! It really is beautiful.
DR: Thanks Kristen. I hope you are getting that little boy ready for bed.
Will from Bedford, NY: I think you're really neat. I have seen your book at Borders, and I really like the picture of Chris and Will playing "Turkey in the Straw." I love your dedication to Will. Chamois is the cutest!
DR: Hello there Will! (Even my own son is more adept at the computer than I am, sad to say). I really like the picture of Daddy and you as well. Now get ready for bed...!
Dale from Williamsburg, VA: Of all the cards and letters that you received, what type of message most touched you?
DR: Hi Dale - Again, it is so hard to say. Different things touched us at different times. Very moving were stories of people overcoming even worse hardship.
Ivan from Sydney, Australia: I am looking forward to opening the pages of your long-awaited book. I'm sorry I never wrote to either you or Chris; I always thought I'd sound stupid, but I can honestly say that I like to keep up-to-date with your fights an struggles and, of course, your triumphs! Anyway, here's my double-barreled question? What are you guys going September/October next year? I was wondering if your family might come down to visit and watch our Olympic and Paralympic games? I also thought it would be a fantastic idea if Chris could commentate on the equestrian events? What do you think? Of course, the offer is always open for you and the family to come over to my house for a BBQ! Thanks, take care.
DR: Hi Ivan - Thanks for the invite, but a 26-hour flight would be much too long for Chris. We participated in the opening ceremonies of the Paralympic games in Atlanta. Amazing.
Laurie from Nebraska: What is the best advice you have to give?
DR: Hi Laurie - When someone asks you "Can I do anything to help?" be specific. People want to help, but don't know how. Hand them your grocery list or directions to go pick up your kids somewhere.
Judy from New Jersey: I was delighted to hear on the "Dateline" interview, Dana, that you hope to appear in a musical. Is there anything definite about that? Also, I hope that you will sometime stop in to visit a little creation that I and some other wonderful people work very hard on - The Christopher Reeve Home Page (http://come.to/chris.reeve)
DR: Hi Judy from Jersey - I actually just appeared in a musical in your own state at the NJ Shakespeare Festival in Madison. It was called "Enter the Guardsman," and I starred with Robert Cucciolli (from "Jekyl and Hyde." The festival has great stuff, so keep looking.
D. J. in the U.K. (Dawn) from Hull, England: I just wondered what your thoughts, if any, are on the "Superman" movies and/or the proposed new movie with Nic Cage (if it ever gets going)?
DR: The movie "Heartbreaker" is for Nicolas Cage's production company, Saturn Films, but he is not in it. It starts shooting in New York in the spring. As far as Nic playing "Superman" - sure, why not. Although I don't think it's happening.
Pam Beach from Mississippi: What is the next step for Chris and his extensive therapy? What is his extended prognosis?
DR: Pam - Chris's therapy is ongoing. The most groundbreaking and exciting stuff is his work on the walking treadmill where he is suspended on a harness and his legs, using the "memory" inside the spinal cord, actually go through the movement of walking unassisted by any outside stimulation or person.
Megan from bn.com: How will your family celebrate New Year's Eve, 1999?
DR: We'll probably just stay home and wait for the power failure.
Laurie from Nebraska: What effect did this have on your relationship or outlook on life? I know becoming disabled through my own illness has made me cherish certain times with family more than normal. How about for you?
DR: Laurie from Nebraska - Without question, a sudden illness or injury changes your outlook on life and yes, time with family and friends, and even a beautiful day or sunset is all the more special.
Lorraine from Illinois: I just had to say how wonderful it is to have such terrific role models, and that I had tears in my eyes seeing awhile back when Christopher took his first step. You are both just incredible. Thank you for sharing this struggle and for all the work you've done.
DR: Hi Lorraine - Thanks for the kind words. Just to clear something up: Chris has not taken any steps on his own. Only during his walking therapy do his legs walk on a treadmill, but his full weight is suspended by a harness. It is exciting, but it's not walking on his own.
Megan from bn.com: What do you look forward to in the next year? The next five years?
DR: In the next year, in the next five years, for the rest of my life, I truly just want everyone in my family to be happy, healthy, fulfilled, and giving of themselves. May sound schmaltzy, but it's true.
Megan from bn.com: Thank you, Dana Reeve. This has been an inspirational hour and I wish you the best of luck in the future and for the success of CARE PACKAGES. Before you go, do you have any closing remarks for our online audience tonight?
DR: Thank you for continuing to think of us and care so much about our well-being. And now I have got to put my son to bed!
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