There is no doubt Roman Reed is one of the greatest patient advocates for spinal cord injury research currently alive. Destined to play in the NFL, when his life took the paralysis U-turn, he did what any true superstar would do – he went on to dedicate his life to a finding a cure for spinal cord injuries, and he’s still going strong.
Roman’s now near 20 year journey of living with a spinal cord injury has resulted in millions of dollars in research and funding money to find a cure for spinal cord injuries; the hard work he’s put towards this goal has been astounding. Read on to learn the back story on renowned spinal cord injury patient advocate, Roman Reed.
Why he’s fearless
Growing up in Fremont, California, Roman Reed was your typical California boy who loved athletics. He played all kinds of sports, but fell in love with football. When he graduated from high school in 1993, he was recruited to play at Chabot College. At the time, Roman was considered one of the best three linebackers in college. He was able to bench press 430 pounds.
But on September 10th, 1994, his very first game of the college football season, Roman broke his neck at the C6-7 level, and was thrown into the life of a quadriplegic. He refused to accept a “simple bruise” can alter someone’s life to such a degree, and thus began his fiery passion to find a cure for spinal cord injury. He went to rehab, worked hard to be able to bench press 225lbs post-injury (despite doctor’s expectations), but he wanted more – a cure.
With his father, Don C. Reed by his side, within five years Roman was able to get the attention of many high-profile celebrities and politicians to support his brand new foundation, the Roman Reed Foundation. Major General Norman Schwarzkopf was one of the first supporters of the foundation who openly acknowledged the unethical balance of military funding vs. medical research. Roman is driven especially by children with spinal cord injuries, wanting to find a cure for them to more than himself.
By 1999, the foundation was able to spearhead a legislative bill – the Roman Reed SCI Research Act – which was passed by the California Congress that same year. Since the first enactment of the bill (and it has been vetoed a few times as well over the years, but it’s always been brought back), it has generated more than $12.5 million in state funds, all of which went directly to scientists conducting spinal cord regeneration.
And more than that, the Roman Reed foundation has raised an additional $50 million for research, holding fundraisers, getting support in athletics and other areas. Roman is such a well known advocate for spinal cord injury research in fact that he was invited by President Obama to the ceremony in March 2009 held to commemorate the restore reversal of the government’s ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
Now, the Roman Reed Foundation is one of the most successful spinal cord injury research foundations in the world.
Roman and the Governor of California definitely are not best friends as of late. In early October 2013, Gov. Brown vetoed the latest incarnation of the Roman Reed Act, which would have added an extra dollar fee to every speeding ticket in the state. This would’ve been put towards a fund for spinal cord injury research. The governor however doesn’t support tickets that have extra fees.
But Roman is undeterred. He is considering running for political office himself as a possible solution and vows to bring the bill back next year. Currently however, he is working as the Executive Director of Community Relations at Stanford University. He’s also the father of three kids, defying doctor’s expectations in that department as well.
Once a fighter on the field and now a fighter for spinal injury research, words are simply not enough to thank Roman for the tireless work he’s put into raising the money to find a cure for spinal cord injuries. He shows exactly the tenacity that’s needed to get such a monumental thing – a cure for spinal cord injuries – to ever occur.
– Visit the Roman Reed Foundation
Have you supported the Roman Reed foundation?
Watch the videos!
– Roman Reed talking about creating the bill in his name, the Roman Reed SCI Research Act
– Roman Reed talking about patient advocates at the World Stem Cell Summit
– Roman Reed poignantly talking about his injury story