Read the passage carefully and answer the questions that follow






            "You are at your best when things are at their worst." Although these words are from the 1984 science fiction movie Starman, it does not diminish the powerful truth they convey about human beings. Even when all seems lost, many individuals never give up and even rise above their personal tragedies and give hope and encouragement to others.


            In 1991, while on the set of his latest film, well-known American television and movie actor Michael J Fox noticed a twitch in his little finger and immediately underwent a series of tests. The diagnosis was quick and devastating. The thirty-one-year-old had Parkinson's disease, a progressive degeneration of the nervous system that ultimately renders some patients unable to walk, talk or care for themselves. The disease has no known cause or cure. Over the next few years, it progressed and the entire left side of the actor's body suffered stiffness and tremors.


            Refusing to bow to his condition, Fox, the star of the hit movie Back to the Future and the popular television series Family Ties, returned to work on another television series, Spin City. Critics praised his performance. The series won him three Golden Globe Awards, one Emmy Award and a People's Choice Award among others.


            In March of 1998, Fox underwent brain surgery involving a special procedure. Although the success rate of the procedure was close to 90%, there were also horrible risks such as paralysis and even death. Fortunately, the procedure was successful and has almost completely eliminated Fox's worst tremors. At this point, doctors are unable to say whether he will need further brain surgery. He continues to take medication for the milder symptoms including stiffness in his hips, tremors or shaking in one or both hands and a "tapping" feeling in his feet.


            In January 2000, after completing his fourth season, Fox announced his retirement from Spin City. Though maintaining a strong commitment to his acting and producing career, he shifted a great deal of his focus and energies towards the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, which was established in May 2000 to raise much-needed research funding for and awareness about Parkinson's disease.


            On the 27th of May, 1995, another well-known actor, Christopher Reeve was competing at an equestrian event when his horse did not clear a jump, throwing him off. He hit the ground head first. Prompt medical attention saved his life but surgeons had to perform delicate surgery on his severely damaged spinal cord. Several months later, regaining consciousness for the first time since the accident, Reeve, the man known to millions everywhere for his portrayal of Superman on the big screen, found himself in a hospital bed paralyzed and unable to breathe without the aid of a lung machine.


            After six months of rehabilitation, Reeve returned to his home and life in a wheelchair, which he operated by puffing on a straw. His condition put him at constant risk of pneumonia and other infections and a dangerous condition known as autonomic dysreflexia - all of which Reeve experienced in the ensuing years.


            Like Michael J Fox, Reeve fought back. He got himself a personal trainer and put himself through gruelling exercise regimes on special equipment. He gradually regained sensation in parts of his body - notably down his spine, in his left leg and his left arm. But he remained dependent on a ventilator to breathe and was unable to move any part of his body below the shoulders.


            Refusing to indulge in self-pity, he maintained a rigorous speaking schedule, traveling  across the country giving motivational talks to numerous groups, organizations and corporations and tirelessly raising money for spinal cord injury research. He became the chairman of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. This national nonprofit organization supports research to develop effective treatments and a cure for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury and other central nervous system disorders. The foundation also allocates a portion of its resources to grants that improve the quality of life of those with such disabilities. Until his recent death, he was a vocal and active champion of improving the quality of life of the disabled. He also served on the board of World T.E.A.M. Sports, a group that organizes and sponsors challenging sporting events for athletes with disabilities and LIFE (leaders in Furthering Education), a charitable organization that supports educational and other opportunities for people with disabilities.


            Michael J Fox and Christopher Reeve are outstanding examples of the human spirit, which comes out fighting when the chips are down. We all know or have heard about other people like them, people who triumph over the worst and inspire us to do our best, for ourselves and others.


Adapted from Health Today, June 2002