UCan2 catches up with Matthew Reeve, Christopher Reeve’s elder son and Vice Chairman of International Development for the Reeve Foundation, as he helps to launch Neurokinex Kids – a facility in Gatwick designed to treat children affected by paralysis.
How does a spinal cord injury affect the wider family?
“When a family member sustains a spinal cord injury everyone is automatically involved and everyone’s lives change – not just the person who sustained the injury. Suddenly, instantly there are things you used to do together that you can no longer do, places you used to go you can no longer go to and the future you thought you once had is completely different.”
How did your family cope with your father Christopher’s injury?
“As a family we adapted and learned to do new things. We couldn’t play ice hockey on the pond or soccer on the lawn so we’d go to more movies and art galleries and we talked a lot more. Time together became more precious and valuable – we all become a lot closer and stronger as a family unit.
“At the time you don’t know or think about how you are coping with something – that comes with hindsight. Looking back, our family adjusted very well. We were certainly led and motivated by my father’s resilience and tenacity and his courage and drive to refuse to accept what the doctors had told him.
“At the time when my father was injured there was no central place to go for information: nobody to reach out to and nowhere to really guide you as to the best rehabilitation facilities. There was no one to give you a situation report on the current research or what was looking promising. In time, once the dust settled, we all came to adapt to the situation. My step mother Dana was the driving force behind our decision to use my father’s unique position as a celebrity and professional actor and the media coverage that happened at the time of the accident, to turn the situation we found ourselves in to create a huge amount of awareness around spinal cord injury.”
What drives you and the rest of the board to find new, pioneering treatments through the Reeve Foundation?
“We are driven by the confidence and knowledge that the science is ahead of the money and it’s no longer a question of if the cure for spinal cord injury can be found but how quickly can we get the treatments out to the wider community. So much has changed since my father was injured. We have evolved from thinking that biology and biology alone will solve the problem to realising the potential and power of technology in transforming people’s lives.
“It’s also coming to realise that given the complexity of the spinal cord how every injury is different and every person who sustains injury is different. It is highly unlikely there will be one singular cure that will apply to everyone. Instead we will see combined, bespoke tailored therapies involving activity-based therapy alongside perhaps surgical, pharmacological or cellular treatments. This blend of different approaches suited to each individual will develop as the components continue to advance and show incredible results: we’re excited about the future and are driven to raise more funds to get the treatments to those who need them as quickly as possible.”
What does your role of vice-chair of international development involve?
“I’m involved with different committees and have many different roles. In particular, I seek to spearhead and forge strategic partnerships and potential fundraising opportunities outside the US with individuals and organisations who have a similar or identical mission to ours.”
How will the Neurokinex Kids facility improve the lives of children with paralysis?
“Neurokinex Kids gives them an opportunity to participate in a greater range of activity-based therapies that are designed specifically for suit their smaller frames and body sizes. Neurokinex has created an environment that is warm and child-friendly, colourful and fun. By applying the knowledge gained from the work of our Neuro Recovery Network and the adult work that Neurokinex is delivering, the children will benefit from having similar therapies delivered in a child-friendly, fun environment that they clearly love to use.”