Past News Reports - 1995
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- May 27, 1995: At age 42, Christopher Reeve shatters two top vertebrae in an accident at an equestrian event. He regained consciousness four days later at the University of Virginia Medical Center (Charlottesville, VA 22908).
- May 31, 1995: Dr. John A. Jane, chairman of the neurosurgery department at the University of Virginia and Christopher Reeve's attending physician, released the following statement through the press office of the University of Virginia Medical Center about Christopher Reeve's condition: "Christopher Reeve remains in serious but stable condition. He has sustained complex fractures to the first and second cervical vertebrae that have resulted in an injury to the spinal cord. The extent of the damage is not known. Mr. Reeve currently has no movement or spontaneous respiration. He may require surgery to stabilize the upper spine in the near future. At this time, it is premature to speculate about his long-term prognosis." Dr. John A. Jane is a specialist in trauma injuries to the spine. Also released through the press office was this statement from the Reeve family: "We wish to express our thanks to the University of Virginia Medical Center, to Dr. Jane, to Dr. Scott Henson and to all of the staff at the center. Our thanks, too, go out to all of Christopher's friends and extended family for the many notes and flowers they have sent. The support they have offered means a great deal to Christopher, to Dana and to the family. Thanks also to the fans and all the people who are a part of his life's work and have sent their good wishes. Christopher deeply appreciates having received expressions of good will from so many people. As the medical statement indicates, we do not know what lies ahead. It means everything to Christopher and his family to have all of your thoughts and prayers." Dr. Scott Henson is chief resident for neurosurgery.
- June 2, 1995: Clare Aukofer, then Director of Communications at the University of Virginia Health Science Center, posts on the rec.equestrian newsgroup explaining the latest on the surgery Christopher Reeve is to have to correct two of his vertebra shattered as a result of his equestrian accident: "Reeve had seemed to experience some sensation in his chest, suggesting that the spinal cord was not completely severed; thus, the try at surgery. In back and neck injuries...the spinal cord can swell from the trauma, causing some paralysis all by itself...but if the cord is indeed not severed then there is hope."
- June 3, 1995: On the rec.equestrian newsgroup, Clare Aukofer posts that the official word on Christopher Reeve's condition is that he is still "serious but stable" and that right now surgery is planned for Monday to put a rod in his neck to stabilize the two broken vertebrae, C-1 and C-2. Aukofer also posted that the University of Virginia would not object to donations made to them and that Reeve would be notified of donations made in his name. Aukofer said that donations can be specified to go to spinal cord injury related research or projects. Donations to the University of Virginia Medical Center can be sent to:
- Office of Medical Center Development
- University of Virginia Medical Center, box 333
- Charlottesville, VA 22908
- June 5, 1995: The Reeve family authorized Clare Aukofer to post official, guaranteed accurate information regarding Christopher Reeve's condition. Aukofer began frequently posting factual material that is non-sensationalized to stop the rumors and speculation around Reeve's condition at a time when the family least needed speculation. Aukofer began to provide transcripts of press conferences and other tidbits through a newsgroup called rec.equestrian the moment it was released to the media.
- June 5, 1995: Aukofer notified the newsgroup that Christopher Reeve went into surgery to stabilize his upper spine at 8:40am EST this morning. His condition upon entering surgery was still listed as "serious but stable." A medical briefing on the surgery is scheduled for 4:00pm EST today. Beginning this morning, a recorded message is available giving the most current report on Reeve's condition. The number is (804) 924-3777. Aukofer also sent a note to her people acting as liaison to the Reeve family that people in the newsgroup are extremely interested in his condition and are praying and wishing him well. She also noted that there were at least two people on the group who had been present at the accident should the family or Reeve ever wish to hear from equestrian eyewitnesses. Any eyewitnesses who might wish their names included in this list can e-mail Clare Aukofer directly.
- June 5, 1995: According to a newsgroup posting from Clare Aukofer, Dr. John A. Jane told reporters at a 4:00pm EST news briefing this afternoon that Christopher Reeve's surgery, which lasted approximately five hours, "went fine." Aukofer also said, "Jane and his team fused together Reeve's first and second cervical vertebrae in a successful attempt to prevent further damage to his spinal cord; the team then attached the two fused vertebrae to the back of Reeve's skull. This will allow the actor to be placed in a seated position over a period of two or three days, with gradual raising of the body each day, beginning today. Jane said that Reeve indicated pleasure by smiling when told this would be the possible result of the surgery. The surgery was performed primarily to prevent further damage and allow recovery already begun to proceed; it was not curative in nature. Recovery from surgery is expected to take ten to fourteen days. Because the vertebrae were fragmented, the surgeons used eleven small wires to put them into place; a larger metal piece of titanium was used to hold the vertebrae to the skull."
- June 9, 1995: Dana Reeve read a statement at a 10:00am EST press briefing. According to Aukofer's transcript of the event, Reeve thanked the hospital staff, press and fans. Reeve said, "I am here to express Chris's and my sincere thanks to everyone who has been helping us through this very difficult time. I'd like to reiterate our thanks to the University of Virginia Medical Center and its staff...I would like, too, to express our thanks to the press who, by and large, have handled this ordeal with care and tact...Much of his day is spent listening to messages from well-wishers. I can't BEGIN to express how important these are to him." Reeve also described her husband Christopher Reeve as "a man blessed with extraordinary inner strength. He is a passionate man, committed to doing things well. I can't think of a challenge he has not met head on with frevent gusto. He is a fighter and a survivor of the first order." Aukofer also said that Dr. Jane reported at the news briefing that Reeve is in "no pain"; he is voluntarily moving his right trapezius, the muscle that you can feel just behind the top of your shoulder; and that there is also some movement in the left side. Aukofer clarified that this means that some nerve impulses are getting through the area of injury. Reeve is still on a ventilator, and it is "too soon to say" still, what the long term prognosis is. He is in the very early stages of rehabilitiation. Aukofer also said that she relayed to the people who act as liaison with the family that should Mrs. Reeve care to communicate to the rec.equestrian newgroup and/or others who are picking up her reports through the internet, the offer to let her use Aukofer's access to post herself, if she wishes is being made. Aukofer also said that she cannot offer to print out e-mail and get it delivered to the family. However she said, in one of the other interested newsgroups one member has offered to print out and collect e-mail messages; perhaps someone with the time and interest in the rec.eqestrian newsgroup would like to make the same offer.
- June 9, 1995: Aukofer reports that Susan Collicott, of the rec.equestrian newsgroup, has kindly offered to print out e-mails for Christopher Reeve and his family and mail them to her in batches, so that she will see that they get delivered to the Reeve family. There was a second volunteer and Aukofer put them in touch with each other incase Collicott needs a backup.
- June 16, 1995: Aukofer posts the latest news on Christopher Reeve's condition: "As of now, Reeve is stable, eating solid food, in good humor. According to Dr. Jane, Reeve is now able to force air through his trach tube (this is now how the ventilator is working) and his first words were 'Testing, one two three.'" Aukofer also noted that the photograph of Reeve in a hospital bed that is now on the cover of some tabloids is NOT a current photograph; it is a still from the HBO film Above Suspicion made before the accident. To her knowledge there are no photographs of Reeve in the hospital.
- June 16, 1995: Aukofer reports the latest on Christopher Reeve's condition: "Serious but improving." Mr. Reeve now has additional right shoulder strength, with some sensation in his left shoulder. Results of the MRI were "encouraging," but no additional information is available. Aukofer also said that the giant get-well card from Metropolis is scheduled to arrive there with the morning mail, at approximately 10:30am EST, and will be accepted by a representative of the University of Virginia Medical Center's news office on behalf of the family. Also in answer to questions and comments about whether Reeve's injuries might have been made better or worse by the safety gear he was using, a helmet and vest, Aukofer told the newsgroup the official word from his physician is that he "Did everything right."
- June 19, 1995: The latest report on Christopher Reeve, as posted by Clare Aukofer, is: "Mr. Reeve's condition remains serious, but he continues to improve."
- June 22, 1995: Aukofer reported the latest official information on Christopher Reeve's condition: "Mr. Reeve is in serious condition, but is improving. A recent test indicates that both of his phrenic nerves are intact. Stimulation of these nerves causes contraction of the diaphragm. Dr. Jane is pleased with the integrity of the phrenic nerves and their ability to retain sensation. A release date for Mr. Reeve has not been determined. Doctors are looking at a range of a week to three weeks. Mr. Reeve remains in good spirits." Aukofer also added in translation, "What this may mean is that there may be a very good chance that those nerves may function again, which may contribute to a possible ability for Mr. Reeve to breathe on his own at some time in the future."
- June 26, 1995: Aukofer notified the newsgroup of the official health report of Christopher Reeve: "Mr. Reeve is in serious condition, but he continues to improve. A release date has not been determined. Mr. Reeve remains on a ventilator and continues to be in good spirits." She also gives an exclusive to the newsgroup about some art on the wall of Reeve's room: a horse/riding poster, as well as a pencil sketch of a horse. Aukofer also said that the liaison gave Dana Reeve a printout of the posting where many of the people who post on the rec.equestrian newsgroup noted how much safety activity has occurred since the accident.
- June 27, 1995: Aukofer posts the latest on Christopher Reeve: "Mr. Reeve is in serious condition but is still improving. He will probably be transfered sometime this week to a rehabilitation facility since the acute phase of his injury has passed. Mr. Reeve has left his room a few times, he is eating, and is sitting up. He is in good spirits."
- June 27, 1995: At a Senate hearing held by the Special Committee on Aging, Christopher Reeve's brother Benjamin Reeve testified on his behalf on the subject of brain research and health care cost reduction. Reeve said at the hearing, "I have learned a lot in the last three weeks about neurons, myelin, and glial cells, and for that I am thankful to all the many people who have educated and counseled me recently...My testimony today, summed up in a thought, is that although as a nation, we will need to do the housekeeping involved in protecting our borders or administering our currency, our most important business is to learn about ourselves and use what we learn to improve our lives...My brother Christopher has had the bad luck to sustain a severe injury for which there is not, and really can't be, complete protective equipment. Riding horses in a suit of armor has been tried; perhaps it satisfied the purposes of that time, but armor did not then and cannot now relieve all risk. At issue, necessarily, is our common courage in a sometimes dangerous and unforgiving world...Every person has a central nervous system, a brain and spinal cord. I have come here to say to you, to the extent I can persuade you to listen, that your decision to further the common commitment to understanding ourselves and improving our lives that we make by doing neuroscience will, no doubt, be the right one."
- June 28, 1995: At 9:00am Christopher Reeve left quietly and anonymously from University of Virginia Medical Center by ambulance for a flight from Charlottesville-Albemarle airport to the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, New Jersey. According to Rebecca Lewis, administrator for the neuroscience center, Reeve said as he was leaving "Thank you, you've all been incredible."
- June 28, 1995: In Aukofer's last post of official information she reported that Christopher Reeve's mother, Barbara Johnson, confirmed in a 12:00pm EST news briefing that Reeve was discharged that morning. She was joined by Dr. John A. Jane and her son Benjamin Reeve at this last press conference in the University of Virginia Medical Center. Johnson also thanked many people on the family's behalf among them an anesthesiologist that saved Reeve's life who they wish to know the name of who happened to be standing by the jump in Culpeper where Reeve was injured. Johnson also said, "My plea, I think, at this moment, is to the world at large--it is to continue to keep him in your thoughts and prayers--but to hold the mail!" Aukofer also reported in her post that Dr. Jane also further explained the injuries. He said Reeve now has feeling down much of his right side and explained it as "vague sensation" and general sensation above approximately the level of the fifth cervical vertebra; his phrenic nerve is intact; this nerve goes from the brain to the diaphragm. Jane said it was accurate to say that Reeve "Beat the Odds" with this very unusual type of injury. Benjamin Reeve also added at the closing of the presentations, "We are looking to the time when Christopher again has a public career. In order to do that, we are going to need the good will of many people." Aukofer closed her message with a "Thanks for all of your kind words to me, and for my fifteen megabytes of fame :-) Clare."
You can contact the Institute at:
Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation
1199 Pleasant Valley Way
West Orange, N.J. 07052-1149
- July 31, 1995: news reports said Christopher Reeve was still using a respirator, but could speak clearly and was able to use a powered wheelchair.
- September 29, 1995: ABC's news show 20/20 featured an interview with Christopher Reeve. Mr. Reeve is still at the Kessler Institute. He can talk with the aid of a respirator, and can operate a power wheelchair. He credited the support of his family and others with helping him feel better.
- October 4, 1995: Clare Aukofer posted to the rec.equestrian newsgroup that she heard from Benjamin Reeve, Christopher Reeve's brother, and passed along this message from him of awareness and encouragement: "The basic message was that the family is happy that horsepeople are so interested in Christopher, they are aware of the concern expressed in this newsgroup, and that they wish to encourage horse folks to keep riding and spinal cord injured patients to keep going."
- October 16, 1995: Christopher Reeve made his first public appearance since his June accident to present an award to actor Robin Williams in New York City on behalf of the Creative Coalition, an actors organization, of which Mr. Reeve is co-president.
- November 1995: NBC's Today show ran a series on spinal cord injuries including an interview with Christopher Reeve and his wife, Dana. They talked about the need for more research on spinal cord injuries, planning for Mr. Reeve leaving the Kessler Institute and how long their insurance would keep paying. The series mentioned the American Paralysis Association.
- November 27, 1995: PBS broadcast "Gray Whales With Christopher Reeve", an episode of In The Wild. In The Wild is a series of three specials.
- December 13, 1995: Christopher Reeve finally was released from the Kessler Institute. He released a public statement thanking people for their support. His doctors reported Mr. Reeve can breathe up to 15 minutes without using a respirator.
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