-- Glenn Close narrates documentary featuring her treatment at Johns Hopkins
May 29, 2009- A documentary history of long-time Johns Hopkins patient Cody Unser, the daughter and granddaughter of Indy 500 car racing greats, will premiere at a benefit June 2 at the Hershey Theater in Hershey, Pa. The event is hosted by Mario Andretti and his wife Dee Ann. Andretti is the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 and the Formula One World Championship.
CODY: The First Step, narrated by Emmy-award-winning actress Glenn Close, chronicles Unser’s life with the neurological disorder transverse myelitis, her paralysis from the disease, her treatment over many years at Johns Hopkins, and her ongoing hope for a cure.
Unser, daughter of Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. and granddaughter of Indy winner Al Unser Sr., developed transverse myelitis at age 12. Now 21, she has been paralyzed from the waist down for nearly a decade. Produced by Albuquerque, N.M.-based Christopher Productions, the film follows Unser through videos taken during an active childhood as a cheerleader and ballet student, to video diaries she recently recorded herself of her life at the University of Redlands in California. The story takes viewers through the highs and lows of a life punctuated by a glamorous Indy 500 fashion show, falls, and the physical challenges of a dorm room shower.
The documentary includes candid narratives by her Johns Hopkins physicians, including Douglas Kerr, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurology and molecular microbiology and immunology, and Adam Kaplin, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry. Both explain the details of her condition and a treatment plan that includes daily workouts on a special bicycle that uses electrical impulses to stimulate her muscles.
“This film showcases the hopes we have for Cody and millions of other people worldwide living with paralysis. We believe that Cody will walk once again,” says Kerr.
The showing at the Hershey Theater is preceded by a gala reception at 5:30 p.m. Proceeds from the event will benefit Project RESTORE, a Johns Hopkins-based foundation that funds research of neuroimmunologic diseases, and the Cody Unser First Step Foundation, Unser’s own foundation dedicated to raising research funds, public awareness and quality of life for people with paralysis. Tickets are available for a requested donation of $250. Reservations for this event must be made in advance by contacting Ted Anspach at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (717) 273-3767.
Those unable to attend the reception may purchase tickets for the 8 p.m. screening of the movie at $25 per person. Tickets for the movie only will be on sale at the Hershey Theatre Box Office beginning at 7 p.m. the night of the event.
Transverse myelitis inflames the spinal cord, causing pain, weakness, and often paralysis. About 1,400 new cases of this disorder are diagnosed each year in the United States. Paralysis from any cause affects more than 5 million Americans.
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Media Contact: Christen Brownlee