More than 20 years after late actor Christopher Reeve was paralyzed from the neck down in a horse riding accident, the star’s eldest son, Matthew Reeve, has opened up about the day his father learned he was confined to a wheelchair. “When he was injured, he was told, ‘This is your wheelchair, get used to it. You will not recover any mobility.’ Nobody who is injured today should be told that because it’s not true,” Matthew, 38, said in a new interview with the Daily Mail.

“Back then, a cure for spinal injury wasn’t thought to be a possibility but my father had great hope and worked relentlessly to raise money for research. He had such belief and would say, ‘We want to find a cure: let’s get it done,'” Matthew continued, referring to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which his dad founded in 1982.

Following Christopher’s accident, the aim of his foundation shifted to focus on funding research to cure spinal cord injuries and improving the quality of life of people living with paralysis. Today, Christopher’s son Matthew — the late star is also a father to daughter Alexandra Reeve, 34, and Will Reeve, 26 — works part-time with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

Christopher Reeve Matthew Reeve
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“A couple of years ago we made an announcement about our first four guys who were able to stand up. This year, other patients of ours have been able to take steps, which is a truly remarkable watershed moment,” he shared of the organization’s work. “It’s difficult for me not to get emotional when I see or hear about patients standing up out of their wheelchairs and taking steps. One of the earliest guys to receive epidural stimulation stood up to get married.”

“I believe it is only a matter of years before innovative, technology-based therapies like epidural stimulation will become standard practice in the treatment and recovery from spinal cord injuries — and that patients like my father will walk again,” Matthew continued.

Matthew also spoke about Christopher’s life after his tragic accident. “My father had a brief moment of depression at first, taking it hard because he was such an active guy. Yet he chose to embrace what had happened, to put a face to a whole field of research and a community that didn’t really have a public voice, bringing awareness to the daily struggles they endure. If he was feeling down, he got through it as quickly as possible,” he explained.

Christopher Reeve Kids
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“He wanted to continue to be there as a husband and father. My youngest brother Will was three at the time of the accident and Dad taught him to ride a bike just by giving him instructions,” Matthew continued. “He wanted to have his body ready for when a cure came along. He had a fixed bike and three times a week he would get on that. He had a physical therapist and a nurse would apply electrodes to his leg muscles so he could cycle.

“He actually regained a little bit of movement through doing his exercise, beginning from five years after the accident. He was able to move his index finger, his arm a little and sense touch — and there was one pool session where he moved his leg a bit. It’s an honor to continue the work my father began,” he shared. “He remained a magnetic, larger-than-life figure. He was charming and funny and socially active. He also never took a day off fighting for more research dollars. People said he really was Superman but he emphasized that the ability to endure, the power to love, everyone has that.”