by Lee Slater

Most people wait till they’re dead before they donate their body to science. Not me. I’ve been a guinea pig all my gimp life. That’s 34 years of experimentation. I’m the only survivor I know of the great 28-year Dantrium study, for instance, and then there was my long search for chemical enlightenment during the ’60s and ’70s. This year, duty called again.

I got a call from Fred, my friend and family doctor. Fred said he had come into some Viagra, the erection medication. He was curious to know if it worked on gimps and wondered if I’d test it for him. How could I turn him down? This is the man who saw me through two near-death experiences. I told him I was up to the challenge.

Viagra–the generic name is sildenafil citrate–works like this: An erection occurs when nitric oxide is released into the smooth muscles of the penis, flooding it with blood. But mother nature saw fit to install a control system. An enzyme inundates the penis after ejaculation, constricting blood vessels and allowing it to become flaccid. The enzyme remains and slows the flow of nitric oxide into the penis until the man is intensely aroused. But age or disability can prevent nitric acid from getting past the enzyme gatekeeper, and that’s where Viagra comes in. It gives the nitric oxide an upper hand over the enzyme, and the rest is whoopee.

In studies released by Pfizer Pharmaceutical, the maker of Viagra, 70 percent of nondisabled men achieved viable erections with the drug. For men with spinal cord injury, however, that figure was only 60 percent. Then there are those 50-plus men who have expired–happily but prematurely–from overexertion while using Viagra. These poor s