To paraphrase the legendary Will Rogers, Pat Rummerfield has never met a challenge he didn't like.
With uncommon courage, conviction of spirit and genuine humility, Rummerfield has proven himself to be a legend in his own right. He is the world's first fully functional spinal cord injury (SCI) quadriplegic, to hold a NASCAR racing license (two NASCAR races completed) as well as the world land speed record for electric vehicles (245.5 mph), a tri-athlete and one of only 82 people in the world to run the Antarctica Marathon. Recipient of the 2000 ESPN's Arete Amateur Athlete Of The Year Award, the United States Marines Core Lead By Example Medallion and the distinguished Human Spirit Award at the 2000 Christopher Reeve/Gate Way To A Cure Awards Ceremonies. Pat was honored by throwing out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs baseball game. Recently he was the national spokes person for the Coke-a-Cola Olympic Torchbearers. Pat is also a life long member of the 200 MPH Club.
Pat Rummerfield could write the book on courage in the face of adversity. Born in California, he was separated from his siblings and raised in an Idaho orphanage until he was adopted at age seven. The defining moment in his life happened in 1974 when at age 21, he was involved in a near fatal car accident, He freely admits, "My best friend and I had had too much to drink when he rolled my Corvette at 135 miles per hour." Far from cavalier about the accident, Rummerfield says, "I made a huge mistake and take full responsibility for my irresponsible actions." That mistake cost him dearly.
With every rib fractured, his neck broken in four places, his collarbone shattered, massive head injuries and an eye that had to be put back into its socket, Rummerfield defied doctors' expectations just by surviving. Since he was unable to move from the neck down, his chances of long-term survival were not good and doctors recommended he be sent to a convalescent home. Deciding not to follow the doctors' orders, Rummerfield felt that whatever time he had left he wanted to spend in rehabilitation.
It was while learning to operate a wheelchair with his mouth at a California rehabilitation center when another miracle occurred. He recalls, "I was lying in bed one night thinking how much I loved to play basketball and how I dreamed of driving a race car one day when my big toe moved." With characteristic optimism and determination, he spent the next three years learning to walk and to use his hands. Over the next fourteen years, he struggled through balance and coordination problems caused by the accident to learn to jog and ride a bicycle without falling down. Along the way, he endured five knee surgeries and total reconstruction of his right ankle. To this day, nerve damage to the right side of his body has left him with an off-kilter gait.
Doctors, mystified by both Rummerfield's miraculous recovery and his ability to maintain it, cite his can-do attitude, genetic make-up and his rigorous commitment to a daily regimen of physical therapy that includes lifting weights, jumping rope and riding a stationary bike as factors in his recovery. Dr. John McDonald, director of the Spinal Cord Injury Center at Washington University School of Medicine, says "Most people who have the same neck MRI as his are in a wheelchair."
Throughout the entire, grueling rehabilitation process, Rummerfield took on additional challenges. He returned to work, where he became a mining safety specialist in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Illinois and he invented a back-strengthening program that became internationally known for reducing sprains and strains. He returned to school, where he studied Underwater Engineering at the Diver's Institute of Technology in Seattle. He is a single parent and father of two daughters.
So complete was his rehabilitation by 1991 that he began to compete in triathlons throughout the United States. In '92, he took on the formidable Iron Man Triathlon in Hawaii - - a 2.5 mile swim, 112 mile bicycle race and 26.2 mile marathon.
In 1997, he ran the 1997 Antarctica Marathon - - one of only 82 people to complete the grueling 26.2 mile rite of passage across glaciers, icy streams, rock beds and soggy beaches in sub-zero temperatures and 45 mph winds. As Sal Ruibal wrote about Pat in USA Today, "Finishing any marathon is tough. Finishing the Antarctica Marathon is extremely tough. Finishing the Antarctica Marathon after being diagnosed as a quadriplegic is a miracle."
In recent years, Rummerfield has taken significant steps toward realizing his dream of become a professional race car driver. He has attended several of the nation's top racing schools including the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. World-renowned driving instructor Bob Bondurant on Pat's driving ability. "I have thought and coached a lot of racers, seldom have I seen the aggressive mental toughness and focus that Pat has. Talent wise he has all the right stuff to be very competitive, it's just a matter of seat time. Once he gets that you will see and read a lot about him."
Fast Track Driving School at the Texas Motor Speedway. According to the school's head instructor Matt Mullins, "Pat Rummerfield's driving ability for a first-timer on a high speed oval is impressively good -especially when you consider what he has been through. With enough 'seat time' and sponsorship, he could do very well." He proved his instructor right in October '99 when he set the world land speed record for electric vehicles at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
He's living proof that if you want something done, give it to someone who's busy. He is currently employed as an Injury Prevention Performance Assessment Coordinator at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He maintains a two-hour daily workout regimen to prevent atrophy. At nights and on weekends, he gives hope to others in wheelchairs by visiting hospitals and rehab centers. He uses his athletic endeavors to raise money for a number of worthwhile charitable concerns.
He is co-founder of the NextSteps Foundation – a non-profit, 501-C3 philanthropic organization, established in 1996. Its mission is to help in the fight for the prevention, treatment and cure of paralysis and to improve the quality of life for those living with this debilitating condition. NextSteps Slogan: "Racing To Cure Paralysis!"
A popular motivational lecturer, Rummerfield travels nationwide to share his amazing story and to encourage others to set goals and to never give up. Rummerfield is well aware that his life has been blessed. "Whenever I meet someone in a wheelchair," he notes, "I make a point of letting them know that there truly is nothing special about me. I am no more deserving of a miracle then anyone else."
At every step, Rummerfield continues to inspire through his determination and his willingness to take on the next challenge. He currently participated in and completed the Los Angeles Marathon and in doing so captured the hearts of Southern California's media.