Living the Possibility
For someone who has been paralyzed from the neck down, the idea of ever walking again, driving a car or even doing something as simple as giving a friend a hug probably seems like a distant dream.
Imagine, for a moment, the tremendous hope and inspiration someone in this position feels the first time they meet Patrick Rummerfield. In 1974, a then-21-year-old Rummerfield and his best friend made the tragic decision to end a night spent celebrating their engagements to their high-school sweethearts by driving home drunk. With Rummerfield in the passenger seat, his friend rolled their car at 135 mph. His friend escaped with minor injuries, but Rummerfield fractured every rib, broke his neck in four places, shattered his collarbone, suffered massive head injuries and nearly lost an eye. Doctors predicted that Rummerfield, who couldn't move or feel anything below his shoulders, probably would not survive and if he did, he surely would never walk again.
Today, Patrick Rummerfield is the world's first fully recovered spinal cord injury quadriplegic. He is also an Ironman triathlete, the current holder of the 245 mph land-speed record for electric vehicles and one of just 82 people to have completed the Antarctica Marathon. Although Rummerfield began recovering feeling and function just a few months after his accident, he attributes a great deal of his continued improvement to daily physical therapy that includes many of the patterned activities jumping rope, riding a stationary bike that Dr. John McDonald believes can help others with spinal cord injuries.
Rummerfield has worked with Dr. McDonald in St. Louis for the past several years, helping to design therapy regimens as well as inspire patients with paralysis. At Kennedy Krieger, he'll share his remarkable story with others in an attempt to raise awareness of what is possible. "Since my accident, I've based my life on helping other people with paralysis recover function," Rummerfield says. "To be able to continue my work with Dr. McDonald and to develop a particular focus on helping children is the perfect situation for me."