Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —
When Patrick Rummersfield was severely injured in a Corvette crash in 1974, and four of his vertebrae were crushed, doctors predicted he had about 72 hours to live.
Today, he is a race car driver, a marathon runner who has conquered races in the most extreme climates on Earth and an inspiration to patients with spinal cord injuries.
Rummersfield, dubbed the “first fully functional quadriplegic,” has regained almost complete physical function, despite missing about 85 percent of his spinal cord at one of his vertebrae.
A lifelong Corvette enthusiast, Rummersfield visited Niagara Hospice House on Thursday to draw the winner of the organization's annual car raffle. This year's prize is a 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z-51.
Rummersfield, originally from northern Idaho, now lives in St. Louis and works at the Baltimore-based International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at the Kennedy Krieger Institute alongside director Dr. John McDonald, who treated the actor Christopher Reeve. As patient/community relations liaison at the institute, Rummersfield works with adults and children with spinal injuries. Over the years, he has helped rehab fellow quadriplegics who are walking now.
“It's just a matter of putting in the time and doing the work,” said Rummersfield, who endured 17 years of physical therapy to get to his current condition. “It's very fulfilling to give back and to uplift individual's spirits.”
Rummersfield has over 40 “firsts” under his belt, including being the first quadriplegic to complete the IronMan Triathlon in Hawaii, run the Antarctica Marathon and run the 155-mile Gobi March across China's Gobi desert. The latter feat took seven days and required him to carry a 50-pound backpack full of supplies.
In addition, he was the first physically challenged athlete to run and carry the Olympic torch, for the 2004 Olympics.
In car racing, Rummersfield's quadriplegic firsts include competing in professional drag racing, setting a land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in an electric car, and driving in a NASCAR event.