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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Remembering Dana and Christopher Reeve
Aired March 12, 2006 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, remembering Dana and Christopher Reeve. They left us much too soon, but not before giving us two unforgetable profiles in courage.
Dana and Chris Reeve in their own words, next on a special LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: Thanks for joining us tonight for a special hour, remembering two very special people: Christopher Reeve, a real-life Superman who inspired millions after he was paralyzed from the neck down in a 1995 horse-riding accident; and his heroic and beautiful wife, Dana, who died of lung cancer Monday night, a year and a half after Chris passed away.
They graced this program with their presence many times. Dana Reeve's last appearance here was in February, 2005 -- her first interview after Chris' death, when she had just suffered another loss.
DANA REEVE, CHRISTOPHER REEVE'S WIDOW: Sadly, we've had a lot of losses in our family in a very short period of time. My mom died from...
KING: How old was she?
D. REEVE: She was 71. She died from complications after surgery for ovarian cancer, and she was just diagnosed just three weeks ago.
KING: Were you very close?
D. REEVE: Very, very, very close. And my dad and my mom, I think of them as almost the same person. So it's a profound loss for our family. And she was very close to my son, Will. Both my parents have always been. And especially since Chris's accident, my parents really stepped in. And so we'll miss Nani (ph).
KING: Is your dad still alive?
D. REEVE: He's very much alive. I imagine he's watching.
KING: Was your mom close to Chris?
D. REEVE: She was very close to Chris. And you know, my family just has always rallied around each other. And when Chris had his accident 10 years ago, my sisters came in, my brothers-in-law came in, my parents. They took Will every weekend. When Chris was in rehab, he spent the weekend with them. And my parents have always just -- they loved Chris. He was definitely a loved -- very much loved member of the family.
KING: I was fortunate enough to be invited to that wonderful memorial service that you put together for Chris, and Will stole the night. He spoke eloquently. How is he doing?
D. REEVE: He's doing well. It's amazing to me. He has a resiliency that is very much like his dad. He's doing remarkably well. I was so proud of him that day.
KING: Good in school?
D. REEVE: He does great in school. And he's got a lot -- there's a very strong gene pool there, I think. I mean, I was so proud of him, the poise that he showed. And he was funny and articulate, and he wrote every word of this tribute that he wrote for his dad. And you know, he's a good kid. And he's a hockey player and he's good in school, and Chris was always very, very proud of him.
KING: And most of his memories are post-accident, right?
D. REEVE: Pretty much. He was only -- it was right before his third birthday when Chris had his accident. And in fact, we celebrated Will's third birthday while Chris was still in the hospital in Virginia. And he -- most of his memories, I would say, are from videotape and stories. He has a couple, I guess, like we all do. But he really -- in so many ways, I feel so grateful for those nine-and-a- half years that he got to really know his dad and what a strong and funny and wise and encouraging father he was. And it really made Will the extraordinary child that I think he is.
KING: What are you doing with your life, Dana?
D. REEVE: Well, I was supposed to be on Broadway right about now. I was in California, doing a play, "Brooklyn Boy," which is now running on Broadway. And Polly Draper is doing the role. It's a brilliant play by Donald Margulies, and I was supposed to be in it, but I stepped out after Chris died. I'm doing a lot of work with the foundation. That's something I stepped into. I stepped off of the stage and right into Chris's very large shoes that are tough to fill. But I'm excited about the work at the foundation. It wasn't a job that I ever expected to take over. But you know, our work really has taken on a whole new meaning.
KING: I hear "Brooklyn Boy" is quite a play. Don't you ever say to yourself, Gee, I wish I were doing it?
D. REEVE: Well, I did, certainly. But I think, really, under the circumstances, it's just more important that Will have a mom home at night. I mean, doing a play is tricky. It was one thing if Chris was going to be around. It was always a time -- whenever I worked on a play, it was a time when Chris and Will could really bond. It was really dad and son time. But it's, you know, weekends and nighttime. It's not a great schedule for family. So yes, it's a great play. I wish I was in it but, you know, another time.
KING: Was that the play you were doing when Chris went into the coma?
D. REEVE: Yes. And it was the night before the last performance.
KING: Where were you, in LA?
D. REEVE: It's actually at South Coast Rep down at -- just south of Long Beach, in Costa Mesa.
KING: What happened that night? Was it a night -- who called? What happened?
D. REEVE: Well, I was doing the performance, and I got a message on my phone, which I checked after the performance. And it was Chris's doctor, and he said, Call me right away. And when I called him, he described that Chris was -- that he had -- in retrospect, what we realized was that he had had a -- probably had a reaction to a drug. But he was -- he had a very particular physiognomy that he would react to things that no one reacted to, or he would react to something on the third or fourth dosage, where he had been fine. And in this case, that was, I think what happened, which precipitated, then, a series of catastrophic events which he just couldn't come out of. He was -- he was bombarded with infection and had been struggling with that for months and -- but working throughout all of it.
I've gotten calls like that in the past or I'd been around when Chris had been rushed off, and he'd always come through. And I -- this sounded different to me, but at the same time, I thought, Well, there's a possibility.
KING: So what did you do? Did you come home?
D. REEVE: Immediately, yes. I called my very close friend, who happened to have access to a plane, and she immediately arranged for me to get home as quickly as possible. And I got to the hospital in time to be with him before he passed on. But it was -- it was very hard and a little too dramatic. And it was -- but I feel like -- you know, some people have said to me, Do you feel like you got to say goodbye? And I feel like for nine-and-a-half years, we had -- you know, that was the conversation. That was the deathbed conversation. I think you have to live the conversation, and I think we did.
KING: Did -- was he in a coma?
D. REEVE: He was -- yes, he was in a coma.
KING: So there was no moment of -- where you could talk to him or anything?
D. REEVE: No. Because I think if he had been out of a coma, we would have -- we would -- you'd be talking to him tonight. You know, I think it was really -- as I said, it was a series of catastrophic conditions. KING: Was it peaceful?
D. REEVE: Well, I don't know. I can't say it was peaceful because they were trying to -- you know, they were reviving him and keeping him alive, to a certain extent. He was peaceful throughout the night. I was -- Alexandra, my stepdaughter, his daughter, was with him through a whole night as I was traveling, and I was able to, you know, talk to her and he was quite peaceful. And I had requested -- I said, Please, just keep him alive until I get there. And they were able to, but it was really -- you know, it was over.
KING: Welcome back to this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE, looking back at the best of our interviews with the late Dana and Christopher Reeve. We return no to February, 2005, when Dana Reeve joined us for her first interview since her husband's death.
KING: Dana, how do you deal with grief?
D. REEVE: How do you deal with grief? Well, I'm learning. I think after Chris's accident, there was a sense of loss, but we were able to share it. And I'm finding that now, really, what you need to do is, you need to turn to family and you need to turn to friends and you need to truly have the person inhabit you. And I feel like that has happened.
I also believe the only cure for grief is grieving. You really need to let it -- things come up, things sort of bubble up at sometimes inappropriate times or whatever, but -- a lot of memories. And gradually, I'm told, eventually, you have a feeling that -- you know, you start feeling OK. But I'm a pretty positive person, so I'm pretty forward thinking.
KING: Did you and Chris talk about dying?
D. REEVE: Definitely, because we were living a life that was really always on the edge. There was a lot of challenge and a lot of hardship. When you live with a spinal cord injury, there are a life- threatening situations on a regular basis. There are a lot of issues that you deal with. And we were not afraid to have big talks. We were not afraid of emotion. And luckily, though, in a way, I think people take for granted sometimes their life and what they have, and we were very much aware of what we had and the gifts of life. And that's one of the ironic hidden gifts behind disability is that you just realize the gifts that you have are precious, and family and relationships.
KING: Did he ever say how he wanted to be memorialized?
D. REEVE: He always said he wanted it to be a party. And I had to apologize to him. I said, I don't really feel much like having a party. I apologized to his spirit. But we did celebrate his life. Absolutely. He had a lot to celebrate. And in the 52 years that he lived, he accomplished so much, and particularly in the last nine-and- a-half. The work the foundation has done, and his work personally, in Washington and for the disabled in this country is huge. Huge.
KING: His last day was a good one, though, right?
D. REEVE: It was great one. It was a great one. It's exactly how he liked to spend his day. He went to a hockey game and watched Will play. And the team won, and Will got the game puck for his level of play. He had a conversation with John Kerry on the phone and gave him a couple pieces of advice, which is very typical for Chris. We talked on the phone from California, and we talked about how much I wanted to -- I couldn't wait to get home and how great it had been, the two weeks prior.
I was traveling home every weekend, actor's weekends, Sunday to Tuesday. And I had been home -- a couple weeks before, we had had Matthew and Alexandra and Will all together for Chris's birthday, and we talked about how great that was and how well everyone seemed. And he just seemed so happy. And that night, he watched the Yankee game with Will. And then, you know, later he -- oh, that's a picture from the birthday. That was two weeks before. I love that picture. And so that evening, that Saturday evening, he -- you know, he slipped into the coma quite quickly. So -- and you asked before if it was peaceful, and I imagine, in that sense, it was. He was unconscious for, you know...
KING: There was no autopsy, right?
D. REEVE: No. We had really the best possible caregivers, and there's no question in my mind that everyone did the absolute right thing. I -- you know, I had questioned everyone afterwards, What happened? Did you do this? Did you do that? And everyone acted exactly the way that they should have. And it was just unfortunate. It is difficult. With his level of spinal cord injury and the infections he was battling, some mysterious, and his particular physiology, that he had to deal with a lot of other challenges additionally, just the fact that he reacted -- you know, he had adverse reactions to a lot of different drugs, and that was always a challenge, as well.
KING: Was Will at the hospital?
D. REEVE: Will came to the hospital when -- shortly after I arrived. Yes, he was there.
KING: Who told -- was he at the bedside?
D. REEVE: I told. He saw his dad, and I told him. And he kissed his dad on the head and he wiggled his toe, which is how he used to say good night to him.
KING: How did he take it?
D. REEVE: Well, it was a terrible, terrible shock. And you know, I think, really, it's the long term that you look at, that kind of news. It's nothing that anyone can take lightly. But I think he really showed who he is and who he will become when he spoke at Chris's memorial service. And I think -- you know, we are a family that has dealt with a lot of adversity and a lot of challenges. And I think that he can trust that life has a lot of joy and laughter even amidst pain and hardship. And that's another great gift, to be able to live a life with joy that can co-exist with hardship and pain. You know, it's a life lesson I wouldn't have wished on him, but at the same time, he has coping skills that I think a lot of 12-year-olds might not.
KING: Welcome back to this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE, as we remember the late Dana and Christopher Reeve in their own words. A little later, we'll have unforgetable moments when Chris moved his finger on this program. But right now, back to Dana Reeve in her first interview after her husband's death.
KING: Did you -- did you believe he was going to walk?
D. REEVE: I -- absolutely. Chris was an incredible visionary. And I think that he's probably walking now, but -- running, flying and sailing. But I think that his legacy is what he has provided for future generations and for people living right now with spinal cord injury. And I believe that the science, if we can encourage unfettered scientific research within good ethical guidelines, that we -- the legacy that he left is that spinal cord injury research will lead to rehabilitation and, ultimately, a cure for paralysis, absolutely, without question.
KING: Are you talking about embryonic stem cell research?
D. REEVE: That's one road. And I think that the popular support right now is really pushing towards that -- certainly, the state by state support, talking about that. But there are a lot of things. And ironically, Larry, in the past year or so, it became pretty apparent that for Chris's particular case, embryonic stem cell research may or may not have been of tremendous benefit for him.
But he -- there are a lot of other -- there's a lot of other work that we at the foundation fund. We do a lot of funding in the area of the aggressive kind of physical rehabilitation that he was able to enjoy, the treadmill walking therapy and many, many other things that had brought great, great things for him and tremendous promise for other people, where really, truly, rehabilitative work is going on. So certainly, stem cells are an area that we support and -- vocally, and also -- but there's a lot of other research out there.
KING: Where's the wheelchair?
D. REEVE: His wheelchair now? KING: Yes.
D. REEVE: Well, I'm hoping to approach the Smithsonian to see if they want it. It is in the clothes closet/shower area of Chris's. And I've folded up a Rangers jersey that says "Reeve No. 1," and that's sitting on it now.
KING: He would like that. Is there any question whether they would take it or not?
D. REEVE: I don't know. Maybe you can help. I don't know. There's been an initial pass at it. And they'd said they'd like some theater things and other things. But I think he truly was -- other than perhaps FDR -- I'm trying to think of anyone else in a wheelchair who's had such an impact on society, and I really can't. I would say Roosevelt and he.
KING: Yes. And all over the world.
D. REEVE: Yes. Yes. And I don't want to -- we gave -- we donated a lot of his equipment through our Paralysis Resource Center, and that was tremendous because I think Chris would haunt me if all of his exercise equipment went into a museum. He definitely wanted it to benefit other people. But the wheelchair was -- you know, was getting on, and he -- and it really needs to be -- I don't want to just give it away for parts or something. It was really -- it became a part of him, and I think it symbolizes what -- you know, he moved around a lot in that, symbolically and literally.
KING: They're going to do, apparently, another "Superman." Does that bother you?
D. REEVE: No, I think it's time for a generation. I mean, Chris was aware of that when he was alive, that they were doing another "Superman." I think it might have bothered him a little, only because of that feeling, like, time marches on and we all get older. And you know, even if he was up on his feet at 52, I'm not sure -- he said -- he said he was not sure he could fit into the tights!
D. REEVE: So no, I can't say it bothers me because I don't identify Chris solely with that role. He was an actor, and that was one of the roles he did. And so -- it may bother other people, fans.
KING: Sure. Did he support your doing theater?
D. REEVE: Absolutely. He was incredible. I mean, we met at the Williamstown Theater Festival. We were both acting there. And we were definitely an acting family. And he supported it very much. It was really -- over and over, it was my choice to sort of cut back on my career, both when we had Will and then shortly after he had his accident. I just -- my family has always been my priority. And it's just -- that is satisfying for me. But he was great in terms of supporting me. As Will got older, he was such a good dad and such an involved dad that when Will had fewer physical needs, where just really needed a ride and a cheering section, Chris was very, very much able to be there for him. And yes, he was very supportive.
KING: Do you ride horses?
D. REEVE: I rode my whole life, and after Chris had his accident, I stopped riding, primarily because he loved it so much, and I think it really would have been painful for him if I was going off riding and he wasn't able to. And it didn't mean that much to me to drop. You know, his accident was a freak accident, and he was an exceptionally good rider for someone -- really, for anyone. But he had started as an adult, and I'd started as a child and he was better than I was, so -- and his daughter rode on the polo team at Yale. She continued riding, and she's a very good rider, as well.
KING: Do you ever think you feel him around you?
D. REEVE: All the time. And watching these clips of him -- you know, he's such a powerful presence. He was such a powerful presence in life, and he continues. I mean, someone like that, it's like the -- there's a wonderful Maya Angelou poem that a dear friend sent me after Chris died. And it starts with, you know, "When old trees die, the whole forest feels it." Then it talks about When -- when, you know, large souls die, you continue to feel their vibration. And I think that's definitely true.
KING: Welcome back to this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE: a look back at special moments with two special people -- Dana Reeve, who died of lung cancer Monday at age 44, and her husband, Chris Reeve, who died October 10, 2004, at age 52. He was paralyzed from the neck down in a 1995 horse-riding accident.
But when the Reeves joined us in September, 2002, Chris had made medical history, regaining movement in his hands and feet, and in one incredible moment, he showed us. Watch.
KING: Now, what's going on? I mean, you're moving parts -- what's going on?
CHRISTOPHER REEVE, ACTOR: Well, it's about time. Only took me five years. What's been happening is that I have been doing a lot of exercise starting in rehab and going on day after day after day. And it turns out that exercise is able somehow to reawaken dormant pathways and get movement.
KING: But how do you explain it in this regard, Chris? I'm trying to picture it as a total layman, if the spine is cut off, how can the finger -- and the brain can't signal the finger, how can the finger move?
C. REEVE: OK. Where you're wrong is in the cut off part, because actually my spinal chord wasn't cut at all. It just has a hemorrhage in the middle of it at one point. And so there are a lot of nerve tracks that have been spared and a lot that are reawakening because of exercise.
KING: And how much more can happen?
C. REEVE: Unlimited. We really don't know. And -- but we're sure going to find out. I'm going keep exercising because I think the cure is going to come from patients doing exercise to maintain health and prepare for science.
KING: So exercise is going to be a significant part of the cure?
C. REEVE: Yes. And actually now, there are activity-dependent recovery programs that are being developed all around the country just for that purpose.
KING: Dana, were you with Chris -- what was the first thing, Dana, that Chris moved? Was it a finger or toe?
D. REEVE: It was his finger. And, yes, we were there. We were having a conversation in our home. And every time he said something where one might gesture, use a hand gesture, his finger was popping up. And we both started to notice it. And then he said, I think I can make that happen on my own. And he did. He sort of literally commanded his finger to move and it did. And then it got to the point where he could just think it.
KING: So it was happening as a reflex action and then he made it happen.
D. REEVE: Well -- right, exactly.
KING: OK. There you see the tape. Let's see some actuality. Chris, we're going to try something here. There, we've got the hand. We've got our camera on your left hand with the wedding band. Let's put it back. Move the finger.
C. REEVE: ... in other words, to show that it's voluntary, you give me the instruction. You say go.
KING: OK. Christopher Reeve, I'm your director here tonight. Move your finger.
C. REEVE: Say go.
D. REEVE: There you go.
C. REEVE: Say stop.
KING: Stop. C. REEVE: Say go.
D. REEVE: Who's directing who here?
KING: Stop. He's directing me. All right, now, explain what's happening, Chris. As I say, go, what are you doing?
C. REEVE: OK. What's happening is that just as normal, I hear you and my brain deciphers what you've said because I speak English, and then it goes down the spinal cord all the way to the seventh cervical vertebra, which is way below my injury. Then the message goes out to the peripheral nerves and all the way down to the finger and I get instantaneous reaction.
KING: Now I am told...
C. REEVE: And that's why -- sorry.
KING: I'm sorry, go ahead.
C. REEVE: And that's why we got so excited. See, that movement was so random, so unexpected. We figured anything else is possible.
KING: I'm told you can move the right wrist, fingers on the left hand. Now feel a light touch or a pinprick over the body. Can move arms and legs in a pool. Can breathe on your own for about an hour at a time.
C. REEVE: Hour-and-a-half. Somebody reported that I could wiggle my hips. Why would I want to do that? I did that when I was five.
KING: What does it feel like, Chris, when you're off the machine?
C. REEVE: It's great because I used to just gulp for air like a fish out of water. But now I'm able to sit very serenely and use my diaphragm. And listen to classical music and I just let the body happen. It's really been quite remarkable. It's really been exciting.
KING: Dana, what do you make of this?
D. REEVE: Well, it -- somehow it doesn't surprise me that much. And I know that may sound odd because the predictions were dire. But there is nothing yet that anyone has ever said to Chris that he hasn't defied. When they say he can't do something, he makes it a point to actually go ahead and do it. And that's been across the board. He's someone who has defied predictions from the first day. So I'm thrilled. I'm so excited for him. And I think he's a great inspiration and motivator for so many people.
C. REEVE: But the main message, Larry, is it's really not just for me. D. REEVE: Yes.
C. REEVE: I'm privileged. I have a staff. I have the equipment. But the one thing that I really hope comes out of this is that there's a paradigm shift in the way we look at what insurance should be doing to give people equipment so that they can accomplish the same thing that I have been able to accomplish. And that's really, really key. Otherwise it's just one individual.
KING: And how do you react, Chris, to those who say the reason you can do this is you have the wherewithal to spend the funds, to have the physicians, the equipment, your chair, the kind of people around you that the average person doesn't have?
C. REEVE: Frankly, everything that I can do can be done by a family at home. Well, even if you have a pool in your house, you could do the aqua therapy. But riding on a bike and using electrical stimulation of the muscles, the breathing off the hose, you can do that with your own family. And also you can do it at rehab centers as an outpatient.
The main thing that will make a difference is that insurance companies need to pick up this therapy and pay for it, because they will profit off of it. People like me will stay out of the hospital and people with lower level injuries will get up and get out of their chairs.
D. REEVE: We also, though, there's a bill, the Christopher Reeve bill is about to drop, we hope, in...
C. REEVE: It passed unanimously in both houses.
D. REEVE: Yes, and one of the things it will establish, a center of excellence in all 50 states. So if you can't afford or if insurance is still a snafu for your family, you can go somewhere where it has the exact same equipment that Chris has been using. He is not really Superman, and there is no real magic potion. It's that he has tremendous motivation and hard work, and people pushing him. And if we can get those factors for others.
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE, as we remember the late Dana and Christopher Reeve in their own words. On September 23, 2002, Chris Reeve, paralyzed from the neck down since a 1995 fall from a horse, moved his finger right here on this program.
And of course, the incredible determination that led him to do that, carried over into his political activism.
KING: Now, Chris, this doesn't now lessen the need for more stem cell research, does it? C. REEVE: No, not at all. As a matter of fact, there's been a really wonderful development in California just the other day. The state legislature has authorized a bill that would allow the state government to fund research on stem cells derived from any source. And that's a tremendous breakthrough. And I hope that it creates a grassroots movement across the country.
KING: Dana, I know it's discussed in the book, but when Christopher was on this show, one of the first times he was on, maybe the first time, he said one of the things he thought about doing when this first happened was killing himself.
D. REEVE: Early on.
KING: Did he relay that thought to you at that time, Dana?
D. REEVE: Early, early on, yes. Really right after he had regained consciousness in the hospital in Virginia. He talked about it. We discussed it, actually, as an option. And it was something that he -- I think everyone does this. You have these late night conversations with your loved ones or your friends and you say if such and such ever happens to me, I don't want to live. And that had been a discussion.
C. REEVE: But briefly.
D. REEVE: What's that? Briefly. Well, it had been a brief one, but before the accident, just the idea of what you imagine you can withstand, and then the reality -- they're two different things.
KING: And he told me he stayed alive because of you. But you say in the book that you said, let's give it two years and if after two years you still want to kill yourself, I'll help you?
D. REEVE: Well, that was more of -- you call it a salesman tactic.
C. REEVE: Yeah, that's what a car salesman does.
D. REEVE: If you don't like it, you can return it.
C. REEVE: You try it, you don't like it, bring it back. It will be fine, we'll give you a refund.
D. REEVE: I figured that after...
C. REEVE: You know, two years, two years of living with this fun (ph) and my -- the kids and our dog and our house and our loved ones is like, no way.
KING: Christopher, what are your days like, though? There's less pausing when you speak now. I notice there's not a heavy breath. There's no longer those heavy intakes about every 10 or 15 seconds. Is life much better, or is it still a lot of terrible aspects?
C. REEVE: No. There are very few terrible aspects. And yeah. I have -- when we first talked, I could only, you know, sit up in the chair for about six hours at a time, because of the skin infections. Now it's 16 hours. And I don't have to be turned in bed every night. A lot of breakthroughs.
But you know one thing? I was seeing the tease, seeing the steps, you know, walking across the pool. I remember that I had said that I hoped to walk by my 50th birthday. Well, my 50th birthday is going to be on Wednesday. And technically speaking, now that I see that, I did it. It took 11 people to hold me up, but I think I actually made the deal. Will you give me credit for that?
KING: You made a promise on this program and you kept it.
C. REEVE: Thank you very much. Thank you.
D. REEVE: There you go.
KING: Speaking of keeping, what keeps you going, Dana?
D. REEVE: Well, Chris keeps me going. Our son Will keeps me going. There's not a lot -- life keeps me going. I'm basically a happy person. I don't need a lot of prompting to keep going.
KING: How did your son come up with the idea of doing a documentary, or was it your idea?
C. REEVE: No, no. It was actually Matthew's idea. He's an art and art history and art theory student at Brown. And once the finger moved in September of 2000, and Dr. John McDonald (ph) at Washington University wanted to do a study, Matthew came to me and said, can I do a documentary? And I thought, yes, this is a way to help him start with the career he's interested in. Also, I wouldn't want a stranger following me around. That was really important.
KING: Another thing that's apparently -- that's changed in your life, Chris, and it comes as a surprise to me, because I remember including in my book, when I wrote a book some years back, "Powerful Prayers," asking you, and you said you were kind of an agnostic, you were certainly not a religious person. You didn't look to God. You didn't say, Please, God, help me get better. Has that changed?
C. REEVE: Well, believe it or not -- and, in my book, "Nothing is Impossible," I have divided into two chapters the search for spirituality. One chapter is on faith. The other chapter is on religion. In a way they're kind of different for me. Because as a kid, religion seemed to be a bit scary, that something sort of -- you were kind of guilty while going into church. And it sort of sometimes made you feel bad.
But over time, you know, I have actually become a Unitarian. And we embrace that because it's all inclusive and it's about the goodness in people. That God, you know, loves us and that he assumes that we are good. And also it just assumes that we have a moral compass inside us. And we kind of know what's right. And I write in the book, actually, I take my belief from something Abraham Lincoln said. He said in 1860, he said, when I do good, I feel good, when I do bad, I feel bad and that's my religion.
KING: We're back with our special tribute to the late Dana and Chris Reeve in their own words.
By November, 1999, four years after that fall that had paralyzed him, his courage and Dana's care-giving had inspired millions. In fact, they put out a book of letters they got.
KING: How are you holding on?
D. REEVE: Well, I'm holding on just fine. I've been doing some acting. I was in a play this summer, a musical, a new musical. And that I love. Right now, I'm doing nothing but trying to teach people about this book. And we're doing great. We're sort of -- we have we have a new definition of "normal" in our life, and we're able to carry on.
KING: Your normal is not other people's normal, so people think that it's awfully difficult for you. Is that untrue?
D. REEVE: Well, no, I think every -- it's remarkable how well I think human beings can adjust to just about anything. And some of the stories in the book also inspired me, because people -- there's always someone who's worse off. And I think what is so moving about human beings is how well they can adjust to almost anything. And I think we're doing better than -- better than average at that.
KING: Christopher, is it possible to ask you how you're doing? Meaning, do you get better?
C. REEVE: Yes, I've had some recovery over time. I have sensation all the way down my spine now, and I'm able to breath on my own off the hose for up to about 45 minutes at a time, which is great. And I'm able to use my diaphragm, which I'm not supposed to be able to do. Plus, I have...
KING: And all of...
C. REEVE: I have no muscle atrophy, and my bone density is what it was before the accident.
KING: So all of this tells you that you that that outstanding optimism of yours remains?
C. REEVE: Yes, the only thing that's happened is we're at the point where we need tremendous amounts of money. In order to go to human trials, we really need about -- about $300 million. Without it, it might take 15 to 20 years.
KING: Human trials of drugs, to -- that would realign the spine? Is that what we're talking about? Methods to do this need human beings to try it, and all that research is going cost this much.
C. REEVE: Well, yes. Really, to cure paralysis within about five years, you would need about $300 million, and they can't -- without it it could take 15 to 20. It just is a very expensive proposition, but it can be done.
KING: Are you, Dana, as optimistic as Chris is?
D. REEVE: I am, actually. I'm cautiously optimistic, because one of the things that I've tried to do is really just live for the very moment that we are in. It's harder for me to -- Chris and I are in different situations. We share the same situation, but we have different experiences. Obviously, he's disabled, and I'm married to someone who's disabled.
So I actually find ways to live our life to its fullest right now, as does Chris, and it's harder for me if there are little disappointments along the way, so I tend to kind of stay cautious about it. However, the science that's happening now is some of the best science that's happened in literally 5,000 years. I mean, you talk about when in ancient Egypt it was decided that there was absolutely no cure for spinal cord injury and the person was going to die. In the past 10 years, science has burst open in this area, and particularly in the last four years since Chris's accident. And he's brought it into the fore in most people's mind.
KING: So do you share that belief that you will see your husband walk?
D. REEVE: Oh, absolutely. I don't know when, but I definitely believe that.
KING: Chris, how important -- what -- I don't want to get maudlin. If not for Dana, you might have died, right? You might have not wanted to live. Is that true?
C. REEVE: That is true, actually, because it was such a devastating experience. And I thought that if I couldn't be the old me, I wasn't worth anything until one look from Dana convinced me otherwise.
KING: Dana, was there any doubt on your part? I know, Chris, in your book you talk that your mother thought about possibly thinking about discontinuing life support. Did you ever think of that Dana?
D. REEVE: No. I'm -- my main focus was what Chris wanted from the very beginning. And I don't fault his mother at all for feeling that, because I think -- I know as a mother of a child, you don't want your child to be suffering in such a -- in such a terrible way. And Chris was not yet conscious, and it seemed extremely dire, and none of us knew anything about living with a spinal cord injury or living with ventilator, which can be done. And you can have quite a wonderful, fulfilling life, but we didn't know that. And I think his mother just didn't want him to suffer. And I can completely, completely relate to that.
KING: Welcome back to the final moments of this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE, remembering Dana and Chris Reeve in their own words.
In May of 1998, Chris joined us and took us back to the accident, that paralyzed him three years before, and its aftermath.
KING: We have discussed -- and I know you write poignantly about the hours after, the moment you thought you might give up and your wife coming into the room. Would you just explain that -- when I asked you the first time, did you think you wanted to die? And you did for 20 seconds.
C. REEVE: The minute I found out what had really happened...
KING: Who told you you're paralyzed for life?
C. REEVE: Dr. Jane, John Jane, who had operated on me.
KING: Had you been out until then or...
C. REEVE: Yeah, I think it was about four or five days I had been out.
KING: So you don't remember going into surgery or anything.
C. REEVE: No. They had to wait that amount of time for the pneumonia to clear from my lungs. Usually in the past that's what people die of -- your lungs sort of fill up with fluid.
KING: So you open your eyes. You're in the hospital. Do you remember you fell?
C. REEVE: I have no memory of that at all.
KING: None? So when you open your eyes, what do you think?
C. REEVE: Where am I? What am I doing here? And what's going on?
KING: And I can't move my hands.
C. REEVE: I can't move anything. And that I thought -- this is temporary. Obviously, I'll go home next week, and then it was explained to me, my situation, and..
KING: How did they tell you something like that, what do they?
C. REEVE: Straight out. That's the only way to do it, look you right in the eye and tell you.
KING: As soon as he said you fell off the horse, did you then remember it?
C. REEVE: No, not at all.
KING: Do you remember going to the event?
C. REEVE: The last thing I remember is saying hello to a friend of mine that I saw at the fairgrounds as I was on my way to warm up.
KING: I see. So you remember being at the fairgrounds?
C. REEVE: Oh, absolutely. I was on my way out to the course.
KING: And what was your -- if you can remember, your immediate reaction to hearing that?
C. REEVE: It goes in stages. I first thought, well, obviously, you know, there's just swelling in my spinal cord and you know, I always survive every situation, so I'm sure the swelling will go down. I'll get up and go home. I mean, you -- the brain can't make the leap that quickly. At least mine can't.
KING: It denies?
C. REEVE: Yeah. So you go by stages. You say, well, you know, and then...
KING: What was the worst stage?
C. REEVE: Well, when I realized I was actually paralyzed from the shoulders down. And I thought, well, this is different. And -- then my family came in.
KING: You wanted to die?
C. REEVE: Yeah. My wife Dana came in. And that's where the title of the book comes from. She's the one who said, "You're still you, and I love you." If she'd hesitated or if she had been being noble or something like that, I wouldn't have been able to pull through.
KING: Simple things. In the movie "Going Home," John Voight played a person paralyzed from the shoulders down who had sexual relationships. Can you have sex with your wife?
C. REEVE: No, not in the ordinary way. But...
KING: But there's still...
C. REEVE: ... there's creativity.
KING: A fulfillment. Is that something -- it's hard to ask this -- that you miss, but since you don't have the feeling, it's not missing?
C. REEVE: No. You miss it terribly, but there are marriages where, you know, the couple are making love all the time, but they're not really as intimate as they should be -- you know, it's a ritual, or you know, somehow not that fulfilling. But, oddly enough, Dana and I are just as intimate as we ever were, and that's what really counts.
KING: And that's something you must have thought about in the hospital.
C. REEVE: Yeah, sure.
KING: Will it be, right?
C. REEVE: Yeah.
KING: Does it surprise you that the intimacy is as strong as it always was?
C. REEVE: I am very grateful for it. But Dana is an extraordinary person.
C. REEVE: No, I shouldn't have been surprised, because that's who she is.
KING: They were both extraordianry people, and while Chris and Dana will both be terribly missed, their legacy will continue to inspire millions.
Thanks for joining us tonight. Now stay tuned for more news on CNN, your most trusted name in news.
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