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Limb & Spinal Conditions: Major Films   no photo.
TitleStep Toward Tomorrow, A (1996)
Alternative/Original Title
DirectorDeborah Reinisch
CastJudith Light Kendall Cunningham Christopher Reeve Tom Irwin Brad Dourif Alfre Woodward
NotesA young boy is paralysed from the waist down after diving from a bridge and hitting a log that no one had seen. His brother feels guilty because he egged his brother on and is very protective about him. Their mother is divorced and decides to move from Idaho to Georgia because she has heard of a good neurosurgeon. Her son is in a lot of pain and the pills he takes leave him lethargic. The first time the mother visits the new hospital she parks in a restricted area where a man is locking up his bike. In this cute way she is introduced to the doctor who will be in charge of her son's care. So in a rapid fashion the doctor/patient relationship is also verging on friendship. Something we have come to expect in fiction. But it gets worse. After an MRI scan the doctor offers more pills but Mum brings out her filofax of notes and tells him she wants a spinal cord stimulator. Ah ha, I think, here's something I know a little about. The doctor tells her that there's a risk with such a young person and that it would be used as a last resort. The mother insists and the doctor says he'll consult a colleague. Slotted in here and there are scenes of the doctor/mother relationship developing. The older brother is shown defending his "crippled" brother's reputation. Christopher Reeve (not playing himself but a character) dishes out homilies and preaches that the future will bring a cure. We'll all walk again sort of thing. And there's Brad Dourif doing his weird gravedigger feared by all the children but really with a heart of gold (echoes of Boo Radley in "To Kill A Mocking Bird"). There is also the usual problem with health insurance. They just will not pay out for this treatment no matter how much the mother pleads. So she resolves to find the $30,000. But Father Christmas is around the corner. The kind doctor suggests that if the boy is treated as a case study then the hospital will fund the operation. His superior, a very brief appearance from Alfre Woodward, asks if he is involved with this woman. He answers no. Now here is where I lost the plot. A spinal cord stimulator is a device for controlling pain using slight electric shocks to block out the body's pain message. It involves putting electrode(s) in the spine targeting the area of the body where the pain is. The electrodes are connected to a transmitter which can be wholly inside the body, or half and half with the power unit connected with a sticky patch over the receiver which is in a small 'pocket' just under the skin of the stomach area. When the electrodes are fitted the patient must be awake so the patient can tell the surgeon which part of the body the 'shock waves' are touching. The surgeon knows approximately but not exactly. In this film we do not see the operation which one presumed is what the whole filming is heading towards. We are told the boy is under 'out' for 8 hours. When the mother first sees the boy after the op she lifts the bed sheet from his feet and he wiggles the toes of his left foot. But why? That might be something we'd look for if he'd had an operation to stimulate the nerves in order to control parts of the body movement. Earlier we had definitely been told that the operation would lead to his being pain free. That isn't true either. A spinal cord stimulator helps it doesn't eliminate pain. The film ends with Mum and the doctor getting married in Las Vegas. One other missing link -- the father. He is seen at the beginning of the film driving a bus. He pays child maintenance but he's not up to scratch on visiting the boys. But is that good enough reason for eliminating him entirely. The mother berates his absences in front of the boys. (note that in Liar, Liar the boy's mother doesn't slag off Jim Carrey's character in front of their son). If I've got this wrong please tell me.

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