Horses, Horsepower & Superman

Just yesterday Eric Lamaze of Canadian & Worldwide equestrian fame suffered a terrible incident. Well not him but his horse. At the very end of his competition run circling the ring, Hickstead, the gold-medal winning horse that brought home first in the 2008 Beijing Olympics suddenly collapsed. The 15-year-old show jumper had died without warning. A sad day for the Equestrian world, Canadian sport and Eric Lamaze. But how is this related to spinal cord injury?

Eric Lamaze and Hickstead at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

Eric Lamaze and Hickstead at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

Well, it got me thinking about my Sister’s previous involvement in her A-Circuit riding and the many close calls she had. Not her horse but herself. Outside of automotive accidents, Horseback riding along with Rugby are regulars at the top of spinal cord & brain injury lists. Most famously, Christopher Reeve of Hollywood Superman fame suffered a cervical break at C1/C2. Unfortunately for him but fortunately for the spinal cord injury world there was now a high-profile spokesperson to put a face to the cause. Up until then spinal cord injury was relatively unknown to the common public with no large charities or fundraisers. It is now in his namesake that his charity, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, continues on to be one of the biggest spinal cord injury research fundraisers and charities in the World. Sadly, without Christopher Reeve spinal cord injury might never have had such a prominent and distinguishing figure. The only other charity that comes close is a part of Red Bull.

Yes, you read that right, Red Bull the energy drink company. They are the main backer and promoter of Wings for Life. Red Bull’s slogan is “Red Bull gives you wings” so it is aptly named. I first discovered Wings for Life when Red Bull entered the high-profile of Formula 1 as a constructor taking on the likes of Ferrari & McLaren Mercedes. The Wings for Life logo is always prominently displayed on the car and driver’s helmets. In the world of Formula 1 this advertising space is worth well into the tens of millions of dollars. An excellent “face” for today’s spinal cord injury.

All of the above is basically a segueway into this. How come there are so few spinal cord charities or faces in the world? Outside of those two it’s hard to think of any other charity! It seems as if everyday there is a new Heart & Stroke or Cancer charity/lottery. Yet anything regarding neurological related injuries or diseases let alone spinal cord injuries, falls by the wayside. Now I know the amount of people affected is less, but no less impacting.

Now why is that? I would think that one of the biggest reasons is the lack of any high-profile media representative. I would bet that if Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga were to be the face of spinal cord injury the amount of public interest and knowledge would skyrocket. It sounds selfish but all neurological injuries are perhaps one of the most taxing on friends and family in terms of dollars and emotions spent. I know this from having family members affected by heart disease and cancer as well. They are extremely worthwhile causes but both are well-funded, represented and known.

What will it take for spinal cord injury and other neurological problems to gain the mainstream notoriety it so deserves? I’m not sure but I do know that if there is ever going to be a cure, there will definitely need to be more awareness and fundraising. At the very least I am proud to be my own ambassador for neurological rehabilitation whether it’s through this blog or by gaining knowledge and experience from the outstanding staff at Aim2Walk.

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