News / USA

Recovered Quadriplegic Inspires People with Spinal Cord Injuries

After breaking his neck in several places, Pat Rummerfield can walk and run

Pat Rummerfield (right) with Erin Buckles, a conjoined twin at birth whose spinal cord was damaged during the separation surgery.
Pat Rummerfield (right) with Erin Buckles, a conjoined twin at birth whose spinal cord was damaged during the separation surgery.

Multimedia

Tala Hadavi

Pat Rummerfield is used to being described as a walking miracle. More than three decades after breaking his neck in several places, Rummerfield cannot only walk, he can also run and is considered to be a fully-functional quadriplegic.  

'Walking miracle'

The human spinal cord is a crucial pathway for nerves connecting the brain with the rest of the body. Unlike most critical body parts, the spinal cord does not repair itself if damaged.  While there have been promising advances in research in recent years, there is currently no cure for spinal cord injury.  Still, there are a few extraordinary cases of people, like Rummerfield, who have recovered. 

Rummerfield now devotes his life to helping others who have suffered similar injuries. He spends a week every month working with patients at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury, in Baltimore, Maryland.  Technically, his job title at the institute is spokesperson and fundraiser.  But his most important role is to be there for patients who first and foremost need his moral support.

“Being able to touch the lives of others, knowing what they’re going through, I myself have been in those same situations," he says. "I have had the same thoughts going through my brain that’s going through theirs. It’s a huge honor.”

Fighting back

In 1974, Rummerfield's neck was broken in four places in an auto accident.  At the time, it was considered an impossible injury to recover from.  Doctors told his father he would be dead within 72 hours.  They didn’t know about Rummerfield’s undying will. 

“A week later, there was another meeting with my father and they said that I had beaten a billion-to-one odds," Rummerfield says, "that they were pretty positive that I was going to live but the prognosis was still grim.”

He spent the first year at a physical rehabilitation facility.  Then, he and his recently-retired father decided to manage his rehab on their own.

“Rehab was very very intense.  Five hours a day.  Whatever moved, I would lift a weight with it.  And you know very slowly things started coming back. It took about three and a half years but I could drag my right side for about 100 feet (30 meters). Then I had to sit down and rest or take a nap.”

Defying the odds

After seventeen years of grueling rehabilitation, Rummerfield became a fully-functional quadriplegic - described by many as a “walking miracle.”  After defying the odds, he was determined to break some records.

“When I got to that point where I could run, I immediately started doing races as ways of raising money, raising funds for spinal cord research and I have never stopped.” 

He did more than just run. He completed a so-called “Ironman” triathlon in 1992.  He is also a licensed race car driver and holds the land speed record for electric cars.

His miraculous recovery continues to confound doctors around the world. Few would argue Rummerfield's biggest asset is his mental strength.

“He has the determination of a warrior," says Dr. John McDonald, director of the rehab center. "He fights through pain, he’ll fight through anything.  He will never give up.”

The National Spinal Cord Injury Association says fewer than one per cent of those with spinal cord injuries make a full recovery. 

Medical researchers like Ann Choe are still trying to figure out how Rummerfield did it. “By studying his case both structurally, in the brain, and spinal cord -- functionally -- we hope to see what made it possible for him to recover. Those findings we hopefully can and will be able to apply to other patients.”

Inspiring hope

Whatever Rummerfield’s larger role may be for medical research, his life’s work is with patients like Erin Buckles. A conjoined twin at birth, her spinal cord was damaged during the separation surgery.

“It means a lot to us that he has taken such an interest in Erin," says Melissa Buckles, Erin's mother. "It tells us that he has the belief that she is going to walk someday, too.  We look at Pat as a miracle but also something that is attainable.”

Nothing is certain, and the road to a possible recovery is a long haul. But one thing patients at Kennedy Krieger can be certain of, is that Rummerfield will be there to inspire them, every step of the way.

“At the end of the day, I don’t really think of myself as a celebrity or hero or anything like that. I just think that I am trying to help as many people along the way as I can. My goal is to someday being a part of helping everyone getting out of a wheelchair.”

You May Like

Report: $60 Billion Leaves Africa Illegally Each Year

Report by a joint UN and African Union panel says African countries need to take concrete measures to stop billions of dollars from illegally being moved out of continent each year More

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Some analysts say Russian Tu-95 bombers were flying near British airspace to warn Britain about an inquest into a murdered Russian spy More

Mugabe Defends Image Amid Controversy at Close of AU Summit

He rejects concerns about how the West might perceive his leadership, saying he's focused on African development More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relationsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
January 31, 2015 10:50 PM
Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Neighborhood Divided Over Conflict

People in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk districts find themselves squarely in the path of advancing Russian-backed rebels, who want to take back the territory they held at the beginning of the conflict last year. Many local residents are afraid, but others would welcome the change, even when a rebel shell lands in their neighborhood. From the Luhansk district, 15 kilometers from where the Ukrainian government marks the front line, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid