On May 27, 1995, Reeve was left quadriplegic after being thrown from a horse during an equestrian competition in Culpeper, Virginia. He used a wheelchair and needed a portable ventilator to breathe for the rest of his life.
For the first few days after the accident, Reeve suffered from delirium, woke up sporadically and would mouth words to Dana such as "Get the gun" and "They're after us." After five days, he regained full consciousness, and his doctor explained to him that he had destroyed his first and second cervical vertebrae, which meant that his skull and spine were not connected. His lungs were filling with fluid and were suctioned by entry through the throat; this was said to be the most painful part of Reeve's recovery.
After considering his situation, believing that not only would he never walk again, but that he might never move a body part again, Reeve considered suicide. He mouthed to Dana, "Maybe we should let me go." She tearfully replied, "I am only going to say this once: I will support whatever you want to do because this is your life, and your decision. But I want you to know that I'll be with you for the long haul, no matter what. You're still you. And I love you." Reeve never considered euthanasia as an option again.
In early October 2004, he was being treated for an infected pressure ulcer that was causing sepsis, a complication he had experienced many times before. On October 4th, he spoke at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago on behalf of the Institute's work. This was to be his last reported public appearance. On October 9, Reeve felt well and attended his son Will's hockey game. That night, he went into cardiac arrest after receiving an antibiotic for the infection. He fell into a coma and was taken to Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, New York. Eighteen hours later, on October 10, 2004, Reeve died at age 52. His doctor, John McDonald, believed an adverse reaction to the antibiotic caused Reeve's death.
His widow, Dana Reeve, headed the Christopher Reeve Foundation after his death. Although a non-smoker, she was diagnosed with lung cancer on 9 August 2005 and died at age 44 on 6 March 2006.