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Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis Resource Center

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Helping Others in Life and Death

Peggy Frank and Nancy Meyer
Peggy Frank and Nancy Meyer

By: Brittany Liantonio

Name: Nancy Meyer
Age: 64, at time of death
Injury: Lived with paralysis of her right arm as a result of cancer surgery

Nancy Meyer, born February 26, 1946, was a true inspiration to everyone who knew her. "She was amazing," says Peggy Frank, age 67, "not just because she was my sister, but because she had an outlook on life that was just unbelievable." After a 35 year struggle with health issues, Meyer died on March 19, 2010 at the age of 64.

Like in life as well as death, Meyer just wanted to help others anyway she could. "The sky was the limit in what she would do to make life better for someone else," says her sister, Frank. Meyer wanted donations made to the Reeve Foundation and the Humane Society upon her death so that others could benefit. At her funeral, Jeffrey Frank, Meyer's nephew said, "That was Aunt Nancy -- kind, selfless, always doing for others without any expectation or ulterior motive."

The reason that Meyer chose the Humane Society was because she was a big lover of animals and had cats herself. "She felt that animals could be used to help people feel better," says Frank, who further explains that although Meyer cared deeply about animals, it was the Reeve Foundation to which she felt a very strong connection. She drew a parallel between her life and that of Christopher Reeve. She identified with him because he used his disability in a positive way to help others.

"Both individuals kept going forward and wanted to go forward for the good of others," says Frank. "Although Nancy wasn't in the financial position that Christopher Reeve was, because he was a known entity, there isn't anything she wouldn't have done to help others."

Overcoming obstacles
At the age of 29, Meyer underwent surgery to remove a malignant tumor and lost the function of her right arm. Rather than wallow in pity, Meyer was determined to overcome the situation and make the best of it, even though she had to give up the job she loved. She had graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in special education and taught at the Children's Orthogenic Center. "When she lost the use of her arm, she didn't think that she had the physical strength to manage special education kids," says Frank.

Nancy Meyer with her niece, Julie Frank.
Nancy Meyer with her niece, Julie Frank.

Since Meyer loved children, she still wanted a job that would allow her to work with them. After learning to write with her left hand, Meyer decided to go back to school to earn a master's degree in social work from Wayne State University in Michigan. She obtained a position at Kingswood Psychiatric Hospital where she was a social worker with adolescents for 28 years. "She had the utmost respect of her colleagues, and particularly of the children with whom she worked," says Frank. "Every child wanted Nancy as his or her social worker and the staff wanted to work directly with her."

Putting others first
One of the unique things that Meyer did was to use her arm as a teaching tool. "She would let the kids come up and touch it and hold it," says Frank. "Everybody raced to get Nancy's limp arm because it was something they would have no other experience with. She made it a natural part of life and was able to help kids see that you can experience major changes in your life and still continue to thrive. She did not want them to be afraid of it."

Similarly, Meyer constantly made jokes about her arm to make others feel more comfortable. "We would go to a restaurant and her arm would slide down and she would say to whoever was sitting next to her, 'Go ahead and put my arm on my lap would you please,'" says Frank. "Or, 'Help me with my coat, stick this thing in would you,' and she would not think twice about it. We were more self-conscious than she was, let's put it that way."

Whether with family, friends, or perfect strangers, Meyer was always trying to help others and use her experiences to benefit them. Meyer suffered from a rare skin condition, Dermatomyositis, a connective-tissue disease that results in inflammation of the muscles and skin. According to Frank, when the doctors where treating Meyer for this condition, they asked if they could take pictures of her to use for studies in the medical school. Her doctors would also ask to bring students in to see her. "She said 'Absolutely, if it will help someone else not experience all that I've experienced,'" says Frank. "She wanted to use everything that went astray with her to help other people."

"To know Nancy was to love Nancy," says Frank. "Although her family, friends, and the individuals with whom she worked have lost her physical presence, Nancy's memory and her impact live on in the many lives she touched."


Learn more
Read more about our donors and learn about the Michael A. Hughes Planned Giving Society.

AAHD NewsletterThe American Association on Health and Disability published this Spring 2004 article, "Preventing Pressure Sores," in their Health and Disability Newsletter.

The Alan T Brown Foundation to Cure ParalysisFormed to support research in spinal cord injury.

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Adjustment to SCI (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Aging with SCI (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Skin-Pressure Sores (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on SCI Autobiogs or Biogs (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on SCI Chat Rooms (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on SCI Research (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on SCI Tutorial 101 (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on SCI Videos (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Deep Vein Thrombosis (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on New Injury Top 10 Questions (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Umbilical Cord Blood Banking (PDF)

Arkansas Spinal Cord CommissionThe mission of the Arkansas Spinal Cord Commission is to administer a statewide program to identify and meet the unique and lifelong needs of people with spinal cord disabilities in the state.

The Australian Spinal Research FoundationFunds research for treatments of spinal cord injuries.

The Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association (ALS)Funds numerous projects to develop treatments for ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).

CareCure CommunityCareCure Community features a SpinalNurse bulletin board with informed comments on matters of the bowel, and all issues of paralysis.

Canadian & American Spinal Research OrganizationPromotes and supports funding research to ultimately find a cure for paralysis. Also publishes journal of latest research they fund. Call (800) 361-4004 or use the link above.

Canadian Paraplegic AssociationAssists people with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities to achieve individuality, self-reliance and full community participation. Call (613) 723-1033 or use the link above.

Craig HospitalWith funding from the US Department of Education's National Institute on Disability & Rehabilitation Research, has developed educational materials to help people with spinal cord injuries live in the community maintain their health. Topics include skin care, exercise, heart disease, weight control, alcohol abuse and conditions related to the aging body. Use the link above and click on SCI Health and Wellness.

Clinical TrialsAn internet resource with current listings of all federally supported clinical trials in the U.S., sorted by disease or condition, location, treatment or sponsor. Developed by the National Library of Medicine.

Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD)Dept of Physical Medicine and Rehab Services at Baylor College of Medicine.

Center WatchClinical trials listing of industry professionals, patients and info.

Dana FoundationA nonprofit organization that provides reliable, accessible information on brain and spinal cord research.

decubitus.orgNational Decubitus Foundation

emedicine.comeMedicine: Decubitus Ulcers

Determined 2 HealProvides helpful information for the newly spinal cord injured.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)Funds research to develop therapies for many conditions related to paralysis, including traumatic injury and chronic disease.

findarticles.comGale Encyclopedia of Medicine: Bedsores

familydoctor.orgFamily Doctor.org's Pressure Sores

The International Spinal Research TrustISRT is the only charity based in the United Kingdom dedicated to funding research to end the permanence of paralysis caused by spinal cord injury.

International Campaign for Cures of Spinal Cord Injury ParalysisA group of organizations around the world that together fund about $25 million a year in SCI research. The members include: the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, Australasian and International Spinal Research Trusts, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Rick Hansen Institute and Kent Waldrep National Paralysis Foundation.

FacingDisability.comFacing Disability is a web resource with more than 1,000 videos drawn from interviews of people with spinal cord injuries, their families, caregivers and experts. I know that this is a lot to ask, but we'd be so grateful for your help. I'm looking forward to discussing this link with you, and to answering any questions you may have.

MedlinePlusStart here with 750 topics on conditions, diseases and wellness. MedlinePlus will direct you to information to help answer health questions. MedlinePlus brings together authoritative information from NLM, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other government agencies and health-related organizations. Preformulated MEDLINE searches are included in MedlinePlus and give easy access to medical journal articles. MedlinePlus also has extensive information about drugs, an illustrated medical encyclopedia, interactive patient tutorials, and latest health news.

Model Systems CentersA federally funded program of 14 specialty medical and/or rehabilitation centers across the US. The SCI Care System collects and submits acute, rehabilitation and follow-up (annual, long-term post-discharge) data on SCI patients who received care in the these centers following injury.

merck.comMerck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy: Pressure Sores

KCIKinetic Concepts Inc. (KCI) offers a "Wound Management Reference Guide."

The Miami Project to Cure ParalysisThe Miami Project to Cure Paralysis has studied functional electrical systems for exercise.

The Mike Utley FoundationProvides financial support of selected research, rehabilitation and education programs on spinal cord injuries.

Myelin ProjectFunds research for diseases related to loss of myelin (a fatty insulation on nerve fibers) including multiple Sclerosis and leukodystrophy.

Mobile WomenArticles, resources, online forum for women with disabilities especially wheelchair users.

The National Center for Medical Rehabilitation ResearchNCMRR supports research on enhancing the daily functioning of people with disabilities and hopes to improve mobility, assistive technology and therapies.

The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC)NSCISC supervises and directs the collection, management and analysis of the world's largest spinal cord injury database. Headquartered at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.

National Library of Medicine (NLM)Offers deep resources on numerous medical conditions.

The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation ResearchNIDRR supports research focused on improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

The National MS SocietyThe National MS Society is a collective of passionate individuals who want to do something about MS now -- to move together toward a world free of multiple sclerosis. MS stops people from moving. We exist to make sure it doesn't.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeProvides research overviews for all diseases and conditions related to paralysis.

National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NSCIA)At NSCIA, we educate and empower survivors of spinal cord injury and disease to achieve and maintain the highest levels of independence, health and personal fulfillment. We fulfill this mission by providing an innovative Peer Support Network and by raising awareness about spinal cord injury and disease through education.

New York Online Access to Health (N.O.A.H)Offers information and links related to spinal cord and head injury treatment, rehabilitation, and children. Materials in Spanish.

Neuroscience for KidsOffers an understandable look at the segments of the spinal cord; from University of Washington.

npuap.orgNPUAP stands for National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel. Visit their website to learn about some of the panel's latest research and recommendations.

Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA): Spinal Cord InjuryFor more detailed information on the clinical practice guidelines on respiratory management with spinal cord injury you can request booklets from the Paralyzed Veterans of America. These booklets also provide guidelines on proper weaning from a ventilator.

The Paralysis Project of AmericaBased in Los Angeles, The Paralysis Project of America funds selected scientific and clinical studies that focus on spinal cord repair and regeneration.

The Rick Hansen Man in Motion FoundationCreated in Canada in 1988 to support spinal cord injury research, as well as wheelchair sport, injury prevention and rehabilitation programs.

SpineUniverseAt SpineUniverse our goal is to help patients and their families understand their back or neck problems. In clear, straightforward language we aim to explain what causes spinal problems and how they can be treated. We are committed to ensure that all of the information we present is trustworthy and of the highest quality.

Spinal Cord Injury Information NetworkThe Spinal Cord Injury Information Center features clinical information about bowel management and all other medical issues of paralysis.

spinalcord.orgHere is the National Spinal Cord Injury Association's fact sheet on skin care.

spinalinjury.netSpinal Injury.net's Pressure Sores

SCI-Info Pages: Skin CareFrom the SCI-Info-Pages: Spinal Cord Injury: Skin and Pressure Sores Synopsis

SpinalCure AustraliaEstablished in 1994 to fund scientific research to find a cure for paralysis.

travisroyfoundation.orgTravis Roy Foundation: Pressure Sores

United Spinal AssociationOur mission is to improve the quality of life of all Americans living with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D), including multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), and post polio.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Fact Sheet: VA and Spinal Cord InjuryOf the more than 250,000 Americans with serious spinal cord injuries and disorders, about 42,000 are veterans eligible for medical care and other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

VAC TherapyVacuum Assisted Closure (VAC) Therapy: An Advanced System for Wound Healing.

Quality of Life Grants DatabaseFind resources within the PRC Quality of Life Grants Database. Search by Zip Code, State or an Entire Category.

Library Books and VideosFind resources within the PRC library catalog.

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The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern U.S. Time. International callers use 973-467-8270. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

The information provided in the Paralysis Resource Center was supported by Cooperative Agreement number 1U59DD000838-01 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the Reeve Foundation and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC.