Marquette University professor Murray Blackmore allowed Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Mark Johnson and photojournalist Richard Wood to sit in on virtually all weekly lab meetings, watch experiments and witness discussions of results. Johnson interviewed Blackmore and lab members extensively, as well as experts in the field and scientists who worked with Blackmore earlier in his career. He also read key scientific papers by Blackmore and others and, with Wood, traveled to the 2014 Working 2 Walk symposium on spinal cord research in Seattle, where Blackmore was a presenter.
Many of the scenes in the story were witnessed first hand by the reporter or photographer. Scenes that took place before 2014 were described through interviews with those present, except for the opening scene, which was drawn from videotape of Blackmore’s 2013 talk at a conference in Boston. The description of the 1987 accident was drawn from Blackmore’s account and confirmed through news coverage from the time. The state of Minnesota no longer has the original accident report.
In a few instances a character’s thoughts are described. In all such cases, people described their thoughts to the reporter.