SCI Superstar: Patrick Rummerfield

As a quad myself, it’s hard not to get jealous when I hear about quadriplegics and paraplegics walking again, but when they pay it forward, it’s pretty hard to feel this way. Patrick Rummerfield, the world’s first fully-recovered quadriplegic, is a perfect example of what I mean.

Why he’s fearless

After breaking his neck at C4-C6 when he was 21 (drinking and driving; he takes full responsibility for his actions), Patrick had a spirit that refused to accept what doctors told him: That he had only three days to live, and if he lived, he would be paralyzed from the neck down. Also, 85% of spinal cord was decimated at the C4 level. Things were not looking up.

But instead of a letting his doctor put him in a nursing home, Patrick worked his butt off in rehab for three years instead, and was able to get a miraculous amount of function back. And how was able to do it with only 15% of the spinal cord still intact?  The answer is exactly what Christopher Reeve was into before he passed: Repetitive motion therapy (also known activity based restorative therapy).

By falling over and picking himself up again, over and over, this is the essence of activity based restorative therapy (and its finally starting to gain acceptance in the medical world).  Patrick was able to get himself walking again after three years of therapy, and continued it for 14 more years, despite to this day still having temperature control issues, weak hand muscles, weak leg muscles and bladder and bowel issues that linger.

How did he do it is the question of the century. Personally, I’m amazed by this therapy. Just think, if everybody with a spinal cord injury had access to the kind of therapy he had, how many of us would be walking again? (answer: lots)

After regaining the ability to walk, Patrick got into car racing, his true passion. For over 10 years, he held the land speed record for driving an electric vehicle, and in 2009, he became the first quadriplegic to participate in a pro-motor sport. He drag raced in 2009 during the ADRL World Finals. Sweet!

He’s also been super athletic since his inury. In 1992, he became the first quadriplegic to participate in the Ironman triathlon, and in 1997 he ran the Antarctic Marathon (and was also the first quadriplegic to participate).

What’s next?

At 60 years old, Patrick stays busy. In 2009, he began attending racing schools, and is trying to get more involved in racing. He also published a book earlier this year called Green Bananas (a memoir). But what I really love about what Patrick is his current job.

He is “Patient Community Relations Liaison” at the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, where it’s his job to interact with newly injured patients, giving them that desperately needed shot of hope they need. I sure know that seeing him when I was first injured would’ve totally brightened my perspective.

Don’t forget, Patrick is a member of SPINALpedia (member profile here). Make sure to check out his videos (he’s also a motivational speaker), and chat him up if you need some pointers (he loves meeting other SCIers!).

Visit his official site

Do you get inspired by stories like Patrick Rummerfield’s? What are your opinions on activity based restorative therapy?

Watch Pat’s videos

Walking Proof: Patrick Rummerfield helps fire up newly-injured patients at Kennedy Kreiger

Patrick Rummerfield drag racing at Indy

Patrick Rummerfield talks about his injury and racing

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