Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: New Brunswick, NJ, USA
Filling Superman's Shoes
This article describes three young people with spinal cord injury:
Filling Superman's Shoes
One Year After Christopher Reeve's Death, Many Are Rallying to Carry His Torch
By JEN BROWN
Oct. 10, 2005 — One year ago today, Cody Unser, then 17, awoke in her bedroom in New Mexico to the news that Christopher Reeve had died.
Cody Unser was by all accounts a healthy teenager until a basketball practice in February 1999 when she suddenly began struggling for air and was overcome by a blinding headache. Twenty-four hours later, the 12-year-old was paralyzed from the waist down.
In May, Cody visited Capitol Hill to advocate for the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which would allow for excess embryos that have been harvested for use in invitro fertilization to be used for stem cell research.
"There's an educational and communication barrier between the politicians and the scientists," Cody said. "This is not a political issue, it's a human issue. I think morality demands compassion and I haven't been seeing a lot of compassion amongst politicians."
On May 24, the legislation was approved by the House of Representatives by a 238-194 vote and is awaiting action in the Senate.
Cody has some catching up to do if she is going to beat Brooke Ellison to the White House.
Ellison, 26, is currently laying the groundwork for a New York State Senate run in 2006.
"FDR is quite a role model of mine," said Ellison, who lives on Long Island, New York. Among the many issues Ellison wants to address is New York's failure to fund stem cell research. "I don't know of any quadriplegics who have been politicians, but it's safe to say it doesn't happen all too often."
When Ellison was 11, she was hit by a car while walking home from school, leaving her paralyzed from the neck down and dependent on a ventilator to breathe. That didn't stop her from receiving bachelor's and master's degrees from Harvard University, a feat chronicled in the movie "Miracles Happen," directed by Reeve shortly before his death.
Ellison bonded with Reeve through the making of the movie, and was devastated by his death.
"It's scary, there's no question about that," Ellison said. "I know full well there's nobody who can take his place in terms of his dynamism and his ability to affect change."
It is impossible to miss Jesse Billauer when he rolls into a room. His attitude, and his leopard-skin wheelchair, demand attention. He has no problem standing out among movie stars, models and rockers, and that is quite often the company he keeps.
Billauer was on the verge of becoming a professional surfer when a wave threw him from his surfboard and pummeled him headfirst into a sandbar, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down, although he retains some use of his arms through the movement of his shoulders.
Eighteen percent of spinal cord injuries in the United States are a result of sports and recreation activities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and part of the mission of Billauer's foundation, Life Rolls On, is to show the public that active lifestyles don't end after a spinal cord injury.
Billauer has never stopped surfing, although now he surfs on his stomach using a specially designed Al Merrick board. He has also competed with the pros during expression sessions. This past weekend, he and Bethany Hamilton, the teenager who lost her arm in a shark attack, competed on opposite teams during an expression session.
He is also well-known in celebrity circles, which helps him raise money for the foundation.
"I was sad when I heard Christopher Reeve had died," Billauer said. "He was doing a big part in raising money and he was a famous face. I hope I can continue his dream."
Last edited by Wise Young; 03-21-2006 at 11:09 AM.