Is Rome Burning?

I'm tired. Really, really tired. Rarely, if ever, have you heard me complain on this blog nor have I ever been one to be a doomsday naysayer, but the last few weeks take the cake. One the positive side in the last few weeks the United Nations announced that small-scale, multi-speciated farms were indeed the healthiest way to feed the world. The agricultural giant and resident force of evil Monsanto lost over 100 million in its last fiscal quarter. Just last week The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation announced an historic breakthrough in SCI research and I peddled away the pounds on my shiny, new FES bike. Meanwhile the faint scent of apocalyptic smoke floated through my open windows on the unseasonably warm New York "Indian Summer" breeze.

Journalists in hostile foreign countries publicly lost their heads to the fundamentalist Islamic faction ISIS in their campaign to fill the power vacuum left by a war over nuclear weapons that didn't exist. This has lead to a new quasi-war that no-one, including the President of The United States, has any idea how or when it will end. The stock market plunged as a result of the Ebola scare on American soil... and there is that whole Ebola thing. The NFL is awash with domestic abuse scandals (as if we didn't know). Adding insult to the already critical injury of mega-drought, the oil fracking companies dumped 3 BILLION gallons of toxic chemicals into California's depleted groundwater! Last, but not least, perhaps the greatest shocker of all (but not near as tragic) the Kansas City Royals made it to the 2014 World Series. Closer to home I have had two friends with Spinal Cord Injury come down very sick. One with chronic urinary tract infections and an intestinal virus and the other a collapsed rib cage. To make matters worse, professional photographer and long-time member of the spinal cord community, Christopher Voelker died after a falling accident attempting to transfer to his wheelchair from his car. What the Hell...

Of course the list of catastrophes and atrocities creating this global insanity goes on and on, and each atrocity worthy of every one's attention. It's so over-whelming at times it seems that most Americans instinctively dive into their SUV-shaped holes and hide in blissful denial while awaiting the announcement of the next winner of Dancing with the Stars. We cannot end all suffering, we cannot restructure the whole cycle of life, but you know what we can do? Stop running. Stop hiding. You know that nurse who contracted Ebola who everyone is criticizing for being so "careless"? The truth is, they asked her to come to that man's aide. She had a proven track record in the face of deadly, communicable diseases. She came to that man's aide, willingly, with courage and compassion because she had a gift. She recognized the worth of a life above her own and put her life on the line to ease that suffering.

Rome is burning my friends. There's no going back. Life can and never will be as it once was. That is the nature of the Universe. That is change. Our society and civilization can not continue to consume and waste and ignore. It will not last and the only way to make any way forward is to be willing to make the same kinds of sacrifices for each other that someone like Nurse Nina Pham was willing to make. Inevitably, someone reading this will pitch a hissy and think I'm advocating we all volunteer to care for Ebola patients. I am speaking of an attitude, a state of mind. We may not be able to care for the sick, but what about what we do with our time and money? What are we DO-ing? What are we doing that is so far outside our comfort zone we get our eye brows singed by Rome's flames?

I'll give you a place to start. Yes, I am going to ask you for money. Though not for myself. Before I tell you what it is for I want you think about something. Why do people squirm when asked to give money? Because it cuts to the very heart of comfort. It is the one thing in their minds that stands between them and suffering. Now, earlier in this post I mentioned that The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation announced a breakthrough in SCI research. Well it is real. It's real and it's exciting. It's called Epidural Electrical Stimulation. A tiny strip of wires is adhered to the spine that is connected to a battery controlled by a remote control. When the device is turned on it sends generalized impulses of electricity to the spinal cord that cause it to "open" so that signals can reach from the brain. The results are astounding. They mean a chance, a real chance in years of waiting for millions of people on the planet.

You remember my friends I mentioned a minute ago? Do you know what being able to voluntarily empty their bladder could mean for them? I can't explain the rush of fear that comes from pissing blood due to an infection you can't feel. What about expanding the muscles around their ribs? Once one injury like collapsed ribs flares up the secondary complications can be mind boggling. Do you know what it would mean to families of those with Spinal Cord Injury? How very different would this coming holiday season be for his family if Chris Voelker had the muscle control just to safely get out of his car?

I've worked very hard to keep this blog about exciting progress and share the excitement of my life moving forward. I believe in always looking on the bright side as my Monty Python boys say, but today is a reality check. We need more, we need to do more. We need to care. We must care. We need to challenge ourselves, the status quo and challenge each other. We need to stop waiting for big business, the doctor, the priest and the president to change our diapers and keep us warm at night. We need to read, educate ourselves and our children and make decisions that matter. We need to put our money where our mouth is.

If I had a dollar for every friend who has said to me over the years, "I wish I had a magic wand I could just waive over your head and you would walk again." Below is a link. Click on it. It is a start. Read and donate, and maybe... just maybe it could be the start of something. Maybe if while Rome burns we can build something new. Something better. Something that moves us forward.

 Reeve's Big Idea

Thanks for reading.


  1. Well done, Caleb...we have GOT to start speak UP and OUT! tho, in response to this call to action I must add something...Chris Voelker, who, you know, I loved and cared for deeply, didn't just fall out of his chair. that was just the push that started the fall of the dominos that led him, unable to face any more pain or further disability after 34 years of living with quadriplegia, to take his own life. Despondent over his constant pain, stupidly recurring hospital stays due to infecion, the ending of his marriage, the changing of his career as a brilliant commercial and fine art photographer simply proved to much. He bore it all for decades and simply didn't have much hope. There had been so little progress in changing the circumstances of the paralyzed I'm guessing he had just had enough. There we are on the precipice of dramatic change is unprecedented. We have to reach out to our circles and beyond to push this science forward. Am doing everything I can as I know you are. One of my motivations for going to the Working 2 Walk Symposium in Seattle this past week end was I need to educate myself to become a better advocate. The SCI community is too complacent, too willing to accept there are not enough numbers to compel science and pharma to work on behalf of this population. Too willing to smile and suck it up and present the smiley face: look how will I am adapting to this untenable situation. It is not just about NOT walking. It is about peeing and crapping and hoping for a hard on. And not suffering infection and pressure sores and potential mind numbing depression. I say ENOUGH. Let's support what changes that can be made. And, unfortunately, it all boils down to money. There is plenty out there. It just has to be determined how to allocate it. If I see one more crowd funder for another mediocre album or indie movie or freaking beach cooler (which raised $16M!!) I'll tear my hair out. When I look at my (very) few wealthy friends who spend a thousand bucks on pair of shoes or $100,000 on a vacation or a million on a party I want to throttle them. We need to make a BIG noise and rally the masses behind doing something NOW. I will now climb down from my soap box.


Post a Comment