Stories of Hope

Roman Reed

In the world of incurable disease and disability, there are no statistics—only people.

On September 10, 1994, Roman Reed was playing middle linebacker for Chabot College, Hayward, California. The 6’4” 235 pound 19 year old was having a great game: 11 solo tackles, a diving one-hand interception, a forced and recovered fumble.

On the third play of the fourth quarter, our son went in to make one more tackle, and a 341 pound blocker came in from the side. There was a tremendous thwack of impact, and a pileup. Our son was down.

At the hospital the doctor’s told us the worst possible news. Roman’s neck was broken; he was paralyzed from the shoulders down.

“You’ll never walk again, never close your fingers, and there is only about a two per cent chance you will ever be able to father a child,” our son was told.

But Roman is not much for giving up, and his family stood by him.

Borrowing every penny they could get, the Reeds purchased an experimental medicine called Sygen from Switzerland.

While mother Gloria had three wheelchair-accessible rooms added on to the house, girlfriend Terri, Roman, and his father Don C. Reed went down to Southern California for physical therapy.

After seven months grueling therapy, Roman was able to use the triceps muscles on the backs of his arms. It is unclear if the Sygen helped, or the 8-12 hours of exhausting therapy, or both. But he could transfer himself from bed to wheelchair, even drive a specially-adapted van.

He and girlfriend Terri became husband and wife. They even had what we regard as a “miracle baby”, Roman Reed part two, now six. The baby doctors said would almost certainly never be born hit 21 home runs in his first year of peewee baseball!

Almost ten years after the accident, Roman Reed has returned to work, is continuing with college at Cal Berkeley, coached his son’s soccer team last year—and is living a strong and useful life—but he is still paralyzed.

Fremont Assemblyman John Dutra authored a bill named after Roman, which later became the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act. His father, Don Reed, sponsor of the Roman Reed Act, founded a group called Californians for Cure. With the help of wheelchair warriors like co-chair Karen Miner, the group worked for three years, and passed the bill into law.

One glorious day, March 1, 2002, Roman visited the Roman Reed Laboratory in the Reeve-Irving Research Center, University of California at Irvine.

He held in his hands a rat, which had been paralyzed, and now walked again.

That rat had been given human embryonic stem cells.

“We know we can fix rats,” says Roman, “It’s time we started helping humans.”

For that miracle to happen, research must be both established, and funded.

Thanks to the leadership of Senator Deborah V. Ortiz, California became the first officially stem cell-friendly state in America.

But that glorious first step was not accompanied by money.

The California Stem Cell Initiative is the financial answer to incurable disease and disability: offering hope to literally millions of families in America and across the world.

Roman hopes everyone will join together, and insist on funding the only form of research that has the potential to cure not just paralysis, but cancer, AIDS, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and many more cruel medical maladies.

Our country groans under a mountain of medical debt, one point six trillion dollars in 2002, expected to reach $2.7 trillion in 2006, and the overwhelming majority of that goes to the “incurables”: not making anybody well, but just maintaining them in their misery.

It will take a bold step to help the estimated one hundred thirty million Americans who suffer “incurable” disease and disability.

The California Stem Cell Initiative is that step.

Roman has spoken on behalf of stem cell research many times, and he always ends his speeches with the following heartfelt message.

“Take a stand with us, in favor of medical research. Take a stand—so one day, everybody can.”

Paid for by YES on 71: Coalition for Stem Cell Research and Cures, #1260661
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