Pat Rummerfield spends a week every month with patients in the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at Maryland's Kennedy Krieger Institute. He works as a spokesman and raises money for the institute. He also provides moral support.
PAT RUMMERFIELD: "Being able to touch the lives of others, knowing what they're going through, I myself have been in those same situations, and I've had the same thoughts going through my brain that's going through theirs."
In 1974, Rummerfield broke his neck in four places in a traffic accident. Doctors thought he would be dead within 72 hours. They did not know about his fighting spirit.
PAT RUMMERFIELD: "A week later, there was another meeting with my father and they said that I had beaten a billion to one odds. That they were pretty positive that I was going to live, but the prognosis was still grim."
He spent one year in a physical rehabilitation center. Then, he and his father decided to direct his recovery on their own.
PAT RUMMERFIELD: "It was very intense, five hours a day. Whatever moved, I'd lift a weight with it. You know, very slowly, very, very slowly things started coming back. It took about three and one-half years, but I could drag my right side for about 100 feet. Then I'd have to sit down and rest or take a nap."
After 17 years of work, Rummerfield is considered a fully functional quadriplegic. Many people call him a "walking miracle." Then, he decided to set some records.
PAT RUMMERFIELD: "When I got to that point where I could run, I immediately started doing small, little races as ways of raising money, of raising funds for spinal cord research, and I've never stopped."
He did more than just run. He completed a triathlon sporting event, drives race cars and holds the land speed record for electric cars. Doctors have trouble explaining Rummerfield's recovery. But Dr. John McDonald notes his mental strength.
JOHN McDONALD: "He's got the determination of a warrior. He fights through pain. He'll fight through any ... he will never give up."
The National Spinal Cord Injury Association says less than one percent of patients with spinal cord injuries fully recover. Ann Choe is a medical researcher.
ANN CHOE: "By studying his case both, you know, structurally in the brain and spinal cord, functionally, we hope to see what made him ... what made it possible for him to recover. And those findings, hopefully, we can and will be able to eventually apply to other patients."
Rummerfield works with patients like Erin. Her spinal cord was damaged when she and her conjoined twin were separated. Melissa Buckles is her mother.
MELISSA BUCKLES: "It means a lot to us that Patrick has taken such an interest in Erin. And it tells us that he has the belief that she's going to walk someday, too. We look at Pat as a miracle, but something that is attainable."
RUMMERFIELD: "At the end of the day, I really don't think, you know, of myself as a hero or a celebrity or anything like that. I just think that I'm just a guy trying to help as many people along the way as I can. My goal is to someday be a part of helping everyone getting out of a wheelchair."
The road to recovery can be long, and nothing is guaranteed. But patients at Kennedy Krieger know Pat Rummerfield will be cheering for them, every step of the way. I'm Mario Ritter.