Possibility of Cure Brings Hope to Alumna

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Like many Penn alumni, Dr. Alexia Antczak Bouckoms, CW’75, is ambitious. She hopes to run in the Boston Marathon.
   What makes that goal such a bold one is that she must learn to walk again first. Bouckoms, a former health-sciences researcher for Bristol-Myers Squibb, has been a paraplegic since her spinal cord was crushed in an accident that killed her husband and six-year-old son two years ago.
   But the 43-year-old Farmington, Conn., resident has managed to channel her sadness and the daily physical pain she experiences (like “a full-body root canal without Novocaine”) into raising money to help scientists find a cure for paralysis. She is organizing Rise to the Occasion, a fundraising gala on May 2 at the University of Hartford Sports Center for the American Paralysis Association. Actor Christopher Reeve, APA board chairman, will be the special guest. The goal is to raise about half a million dollars.
   Bouckoms is also writing a book about her experiences. “I’ve got my chapters outlined, and I’ve started writing the introduction. That’s the hardest part. How do you start a story like this?”
   The cruelest chapter in Bouckoms’s life began on February 25, 1996, when she was traveling home from a soccer game with her family and strong winds blew a tree down on their car. Her husband, Anthony, and youngest son, Christopher, were killed; Bouckoms went into a coma for six weeks and later underwent extensive therapy. The benefit originated on December 21, 1996, on what would have been Christopher’s seventh birthday. “My friend Diana [Reeves, event co-organizer] said, ‘We’ve got to make something good come out of this,’ and the idea of a fundraiser hatched from that day.
   “I might be overly optimistic,” Bouckoms says, but she believes a cure for paralysis is only two or three years away and points to some of the latest promising spinal-cord research. Numerous people have stepped forward to support the fundraiser. “It’s very touching and wonderful how people are rising to this occasion to help me.” To learn more, see the Web site at www.risetotheoccasion.org or call (860) 677-5228.

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