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Nothing Is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life
 
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Nothing Is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life [Kindle Edition]

Christopher Reeve
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $7.99
Kindle Price: $5.99
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A sequel of sorts to Reeve's bestselling memoir, Still Me, Nothing is Impossible is a concise, meditative companion to the earlier book. Each of its nine chapters is devoted to some aspect of successful living (humor, faith, hope) or addresses a major life issue (parenting, religion, recovery). Although Reeve draws on his experiences prior to his spinal chord injury in 1995, it's clear that his views on life have evolved dramatically in the seven years since. Clearly of most obvious value to those facing the challenges of physical paralysis, this book also serves as inspirational primer for otherwise able-bodied individuals who may be thwarted by mental rather than physical wounds. In additional to his personal message, Reeve is also a blunt proponent of medical insurance reform and government research funding, devoting a chapter to it here, as well as a significant portion of his nonprofit Web site, christopherreeve.org. --David Bombeck

From Publishers Weekly

Reeve (Still Me) offers a uniquely powerful audio message of hope on topics ranging from the controversial stem cell debate to the mind-body connection he credits with his recent physical improvements. Maintaining a composed tone and reassuring perspective, Reeve goes beyond mere narration to bare his darkest times in the ICU, his wish to commit suicide and his longing for normalcy, persuasively urging listeners, whether disabled or not, to expand outside their "comfort zones." After teaching his youngest son to ride a bicycle with only the power of his words, Reeve came to the realization that "being" is more important than doing, and that, as he tells new spinal cord injury victims, "life is worth living." Snippets from speeches, personal anecdotes and remarks from talk shows pepper the unabridged tape set, allowing Reeve easy transitions from such diverse issues as the inadequacies of health insurance to his ongoing search for spirituality and religion. But Reeve's truly inspirational path to survival is best reflected in his delightful sense of humor. When once asked how he holds it all together, he dryly replied: "duct tape." Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A man who has overcome actual paralysis tells us how to overcome its spiritual counterpart.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

Praise for Still Me

“A remarkable book . . . Reeve’s autobiography is distinguished not only by the dignified candor with which he describes his utterly changed world but also by his emotional directness. . . . [Reeve] communicates so well that it’s easy to forget that every word of Still Me has been wrested from a body in revolt against a mind clarified by adversity.”
-Entertainment Weekly

“A decent human being with a stunning lack of ego . . . Through his honesty, dignity and clarity of purpose, Reeve has created an involving book and a meaningful life.”
-The New York Times Book Review

“[Still Me] redefines the idea of hero. . . . In this detailed and well-written autobiography, Reeve proves that, in many ways, he has transcended previous accomplishments through his courage and character.”
-The Boston Globe

“A story of enormous depth: honest, intelligent and compelling. I have rarely read anything as moving and would offer one small piece of advice should you be tempted—read it in a room on your own so you won’t feel ashamed of weeping, and keep a box of tissues and a stiff drink within reach at all times.”
-Sunday Times (London)

“A memoir that’s outspoken, wise, and tremendously moving . . . No doubt, Reeve is ‘still me’—but readers of his beautifully composed book will see that he is now also more—that through nearly unimaginable suffering and effort, he has transformed a charmed life into one blessed to be a true profile in courage.”
-Publishers Weekly


From the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable. If we can conquer outer space, we can conquer inner space, too.

Christopher Reeve has mastered the art of turning the impossible into the inevitable. In Nothing Is Impossible, the author of the bestselling autobiography Still Me shows that we are all capable of overcoming seemingly insurmountable hardships. He interweaves anecdotes from his own life with excerpts from speeches and interviews he?s given and with evocative photos taken by his son Matthew.

Reeve teaches us that for able-bodied people, paralysis is a choice?a choice to live with self-doubt and a fear of taking risks?and that it is not an acceptable one. Reeve knows from experience that the work of conquering inner space is hard and that it requires some suffering?after all, nothing worth having is easy to get. He asks challenging questions about why it seems so difficult?if not impossible?for us to work together as a society. He steers the reader gently, offering his reflections and guidance but not the pat answers that often characterize inspirational works.

Published on the eve of both his fiftieth birthday and the seventh anniversary of his spinal cord injury, Christopher Reeve?s Nothing Is Impossible reminds us that life is not to be taken for granted but to be lived fully with zeal, curiosity, and gratitude. That is a powerful message in itself, but it is the messenger who gives it its full resonance.


From the Hardcover edition.

From the Back Cover

Praise for Still Me

“A remarkable book . . . Reeve’s autobiography is distinguished not only by the dignified candor with which he describes his utterly changed world but also by his emotional directness. . . . [Reeve] communicates so well that it’s easy to forget that every word of Still Me has been wrested from a body in revolt against a mind clarified by adversity.”
-Entertainment Weekly

“A decent human being with a stunning lack of ego . . . Through his honesty, dignity and clarity of purpose, Reeve has created an involving book and a meaningful life.”
-The New York Times Book Review

“[Still Me] redefines the idea of hero. . . . In this detailed and well-written autobiography, Reeve proves that, in many ways, he has transcended previous accomplishments through his courage and character.”
-The Boston Globe

“A story of enormous depth: honest, intelligent and compelling. I have rarely read anything as moving and would offer one small piece of advice should you be tempted—read it in a room on your own so you won’t feel ashamed of weeping, and keep a box of tissues and a stiff drink within reach at all times.”
-Sunday Times (London)

“A memoir that’s outspoken, wise, and tremendously moving . . . No doubt, Reeve is ‘still me’—but readers of his beautifully composed book will see that he is now also more—that through nearly unimaginable suffering and effort, he has transformed a charmed life into one blessed to be a true profile in courage.”
-Publishers Weekly


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Christopher Reeve has established a reputation as one of the country's leading actors, and since he was paralyzed in an equestrian competition in 1995, he has put a human face on spinal cord injury. Reeve is the chairman of the board of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation (CRPF) and the vice chairman of the National Organization on Disability, and he lobbies vigorously for health-care reform and funding for research. He is the author of the bestselling book, Still Me and lives in upstate New York with his wife, Dana, and their children.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

The First Decision

As the old saying goes, you better know what you want because you might get it and you've got to accept it. Whether you succeed or whether you encounter adversity you always have to believe in your worth as a person. That's what counts.
-Remarks at a success seminar in Portland, Oregon, February 6, 2001

When I made those comments in 2001, it was no longer difficult for me to say to anyone that you have to believe in your worth as a person. But in the intensive care unit at the University of Virginia on June 1, 1995, I had no such belief. Far from it. On that day I regained consciousness to find myself lying in traction, a heavy metal ball suspended behind my head attached to a metal frame secured by screws in each temple. I learned that as the result of a fall during an equestrian competition I had broken my neck just centimeters below the brain stem, and that my chances of surviving the surgery to reattach my head to my spinal column were 50/50 at best. Even if the operation was successful, I would still remain paralyzed from the shoulders down and unable to breathe on my own. I heard the whooshing sound of a ventilator as it pumped oxygen into my lungs through a long tube inserted into a hole in my neck. I've lived with that sound for many years.

The moment I understood the gravity of my situation my immediate reaction was that such a life was unacceptable, even though I knew absolutely nothing about living as a vent-dependent quadriplegic. I realized that there was no cure for spinal cord injuries like mine and that I would forever be dependent on others for the basic necessities of daily existence. My role as a husband and the father of three children would be severely compromised, because paralysis had suddenly transformed me into a forty-two-year-old infant. I thought it would be selfish and unfair to remain alive.

I remember going over my life, taking an inventory of all the cuts, bruises, broken bones, and illnesses I had weathered, ranging from mononucleosis to malaria and mastocytosis (a rare disease that destroys red blood cells as they emerge from the bone marrow). At age sixteen, I developed alopecia areata, a condition that causes patches of baldness in an otherwise healthy head of hair. Fortunately I was able to comb over the spots, and there were long periods of remission when the baldness disappeared. I was a survivor; I always had been. A part of me insisted that this situation shouldn't be any different; another part acknowledged that this time I had gone over the edge and was free-falling into the unknown.

The month I spent in the intensive care unit was an emotional roller-coaster ride created by my own inner turmoil and contradictions coming from those involved in my case. The critical care was nothing short of miraculous. Dr. John Jane-arguably one of the best neurosurgeons in the world-achieved the nearly impossible feat of reattaching the base of my skull to my spinal column with wire, titanium, and bone grafted from my hip. Under his watchful eye, a team of internists and pulmonologists cured me of ulcers and pneumonia. By the second week I was able to turn my head about half an inch from side to side, and I could raise my shoulders slightly. Dr. Jane was confident that before too long I would be able to move my deltoids, which might lead to the functional recovery of my right arm. Perhaps I could learn to feed myself, and someday be able to drive a specially adapted car. My spirits rose.

In the third week of June I was visited by Dr. Marcalee Sipski, director of the Spinal Cord Injury Unit at the Kessler Rehabilitation Institute in West Orange, New Jersey. My wife, Dana, and my younger brother, Benjamin, had surveyed rehab centers from Georgia to Colorado and concluded that Kessler was the best choice, because I would receive the highest quality care without having to go far from home. Dr. Sipski gave me a thorough examination and then told me point blank that my injury was "complete"-meaning that the cord had been severed at the second cervical vertebra (known as "C-2"). Signals from the brain would never be able to get past the injury site. Without any direction from above, the spinal cord would remain useless and the skin, muscles, bones, and tissues of my body would begin a steady progression of atrophy and decay. All I knew about the regeneration of cut or damaged nerves was that it was possible in the peripheral nervous system but not in the central nervous system.

I asked questions about the spinal cord and why the nerves inside it could not regenerate. Usually I had these conversations late at night with the residents and nurses on duty in the unit. (The days were filled with family, visitors, and the routines of necessary care.) Nobody claimed to know for certain, but the prevailing explanation was that it had to do with evolution. An animal paralyzed by a spinal cord injury would most likely be a ready-to-serve meal for another animal higher on the food chain. Even if nerve regeneration in the spinal cord was possible it couldn't happen quickly, so the injured animal would still be easy prey. Without medical intervention the victim of a spinal cord injury-animal or human-usually dies within hours or days, depending on the severity of the case. Almost every one of these late-night discussions ended with the conclusion that I should just consider myself lucky to be alive. I wasn't so sure.

Apparently no one in my little nighttime universe knew that a handful of scientists around the world had been investigating the possibility of regeneration in the spinal cord as early as the 1970s. In 1981 Dr. Alberto Aguayo, at McGill University in Montreal, using a cocktail of growth-enhancing chemicals, achieved regeneration and modest functional recovery in rats.

I only began to focus on spinal cord research in early September 1995. Until then my primary concern was survival, not only for me as a patient but for Dana and my three children, Matthew (fifteen), Alexandra (eleven), and Will (three). Their love and the love that flowed from my extended family, as well as from friends and even complete strangers all over the world, had saved me from my initial desire to end it all. In 2002, seven years after the accident and in the year of my fiftieth birthday, I look back with almost indescribable gratitude at the moment when Dana knelt by my bedside and said, "You're still you, and I love you."

Her simple but profound declaration became the basis for my autobiography, Still Me, which was published in 1998. But in describing that scene I never mentioned one critical detail: in response to my thoughts about ending my life, she said that we should wait for at least two years. Then, if I still felt the same, we could find a way to let me go. On one level, you could say she used the oldest selling technique in the book: you offer customers a free trial, a free sample, with no obligation and no money down, in order to get them on the hook. On another level, a much deeper one where our love and respect for each other has always lived, she knew that I was only in the first stage of a natural reaction to tragedy. Asking me to wait was the perfect course of action. She was giving me room, the freedom to make a choice, yet knowing what that choice would be in time.

The first decision flowed from Dana's words and the look on the faces of all three children when they came into my room. While Dana supported the option to reconsider the value of life at a point in the future, I could tell in an instant that the children wanted me to live and be there for them now. I consented to the surgery. I gave the doctors permission to suction secretions out of my lungs and use IV antibiotics to treat the pneumonia that otherwise would have caused my death. Although I didn't realize it at the time, I had chosen the path toward survival. Inner turmoil and the highs and lows caused by contradictory information would become the norm, but there would be no turning back.

First I had to learn to swallow. Even though I passed the test, the smell and taste of food were repulsive. A feeding tube was inserted into my stomach, and during the night a bagful of mocha-colored goop containing essential nutrients dripped down a long catheter into the site. Once a day a team of nurses and physical therapists transferred me into a wheelchair and pushed me down a corridor into the dayroom, where I could receive visitors and have someone in my family read letters to me for no more than thirty minutes. Then it was back to bed.

I couldn't believe how complicated this daily excursion was. First my head and neck had to be immobilized in a rigid cervical collar. Then Ace bandages were wrapped around most of my torso in order to keep my blood pressure from dropping when I sat up. Next a rigid sheet of plastic called a sliding board was positioned under my body; two nurses rolled me onto my side while two others slid the board into place. Before the transfer into the wheelchair I was gradually pushed up into a sitting position on the bed. My blood pressure was monitored every ninety seconds. Sometimes I would faint, which meant a ten- to fifteen-minute wait before another attempt. On a bad day it might take two or three tries. On a good day I could achieve sitting up with a stabilized blood pressure in about twenty minutes. When I could sit up without "crashing" we were ready for the big maneuver. The wheelchair was placed against the left side of the bed and its right arm removed. The bed was lowered to the level of the wheelchair. I lay flat again and my team of helpers carefully dragged the sliding board over to form a bridge between the wheelchair and the bed. The next step was sitting up again. If that was successful, I was gently placed in the chair and the board was taken away. After a few minutes of adjusting to being in the wheelchair, I was pushed down the corridor and into the dayroom.

As I started to face reality during the month in intensive care and six months in...

From AudioFile

Christopher Reeve imparts a lifetime of wisdom in this unabridged collection of his thoughts, personal philosophies, triumphs, and challenges. His skill as an actor lends itself beautifully to reading his own prose, and he gives a stellar performance. One of the side effects of his accident, beyond paralysis, is his reliance on a ventilator 24 hours a day. The pumping of the ventilator is a little distracting at first, and the inflections in his voice are slightly irregular due to the workings of the machine, but those factors make his body of work that much more amazing. Reeve speaks in detail about a broad spectrum of topics including his injury and recovery, issues with health insurance, parenting, religion, personal character, and perseverance. His solid writing, heartfelt and humorous performance, and zest for life make for a great little package. H.L.S. © AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine
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