Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation
Only a few short weeks after actor Christopher Reeve suffered a tragic accident, he arrived at Kessler Institute to begin a long rehabilitation process. Kessler, one of the top spinal cord centers in the United States, was concerned about the media onslaught and international attention that was to come. The senior management of Kessler wanted to ensure Chris Reeve’s minimum six-month stay would be as positive as possible considering the severity of his injury. Management also understood that Kessler’s reputation could be impacted by the public’s perception of Reeve’s rehabilitation process.
Under the supervision of Lonnie Soury, a public relations and crisis management program was put in place that began the day of Christopher Reeve’s unannounced arrival at Kessler through his six-month rehabilitation at the Institute. Soury managed the media and public communications that began the moment Reeve’s specially equipped air-ambulance arrived (photographers had to be physically removed from on top of the ambulance on his way to Kessler Institute).
Working closely with senior hospital management and members of Mr. Reeve’s family, a delicate balance was constantly at work to ensure Mr. Reeve’s privacy, while attempting to deal with the hundreds of media requests and scores of cameras, paparazzi and the country’s leading media personalities who tried to obtain interviews.
As he emerged from his rehabilitation, Reeve conducted interviews with ABC’s Barbara Walters, and did a one-hour prime time special with NBC’s Katie Couric, among the many media opportunities. Kessler’s top doctors were seen on every major television news program from the evening news to Good Morning America, Today and CBS This Morning.
Kessler Institute emerged with a national reputation, not only as a superior rehabilitation center, but also as an organization capable of dealing with some of the most intense public attention ever experienced by a hospital center.