Christopher Reeve Breathing Unaided

For the first time in public, Christopher Reeve demonstrates for ABCNEWS' Barbara Walters how he is now able to breathe without his ventilator for hours at a time.

Becoming only the third person in the United States to undergo the experimental surgery, Reeve had a device surgically implanted into his diaphragm muscles. The device acts as a pacemaker, allowing Reeve to breathe without being tethered to a ventillator.

Barbara Walters' interview airs Friday night at 10 p.m. ET on ABC's 20/20.

"Did you ever think this would happen? Did you ever think that you'd be off your ventilator?" asks Walters, during the 20/20 interview.

"I was hoping for years," responds Reeve. "It gives me now, a sense of one more piece of the puzzle being solved … because a spinal cord injury affects every system in the body: bladder, bowels, sexual function, everything. So, the more and more that you can get some systems back … like the ability to breathe as normal … just makes you feel that you're moving forward."

Injury Made Him Realize Need to Fulfill Potential

Reeve apparently doesn't allow himself any self-pity, saying he tells himself, "Get over it. … I don't allow it … I get pretty impatient when people are able-bodied, but are somehow paralyzed for other reasons. … and I'm going 'come on, come on, go for it.' It took being in a chair to realize that. And so my recommendation is don't break your neck to find out that you need to fulfill your potential."

Reeve, who has made what some call miraculous progress, has firm words for the American scientific community, which he thinks could be more aggressive in its efforts to cure paralysis. "We're too timid. We have a lot of researchers who kind of make a career out of research sometimes," says Reeve. "They're not as bold as they could be … and that really has to change."

"Do you think you will walk again?" Walters asks Reeve. "I still think I will," he replies. "I'm not sure when it's going to happen."

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