It might seem easy, but beneath that surface many would consider the feat impossible.
The easy part: On Friday, June 10, Patrick Rummerfiled got in a race car and drove himself and passenger Josh Basile, 19, around car racing’s “Monster Mile” in Dover.
The seemingly impossible part of the story is that Rummerfiled is missing 85 percent of his spinal cord. He injured it in a car accident in 1974, when he was 21 years old.
Rummerfiled completed his recovery from the injury in 1991. And in 1992, he competed in the IronMan Triathlon in Hawaii. He is one of 82 people to compete in the Antarctica Marathon, a 26.2-mile trek through unforgiving terrain and weather.
Rummerfiled’s passenger is in the same situation as Rummerfiled was those decades ago, seeking to recover from a spinal-cord injury.
Basile was body boarding in Bethany Beach last summer when a wave came crashing down on him, driving him into the sand. Basile was unable to feel anything in his body after the accident.
Now he gets around by wheelchair, but his spirits are high.
“[Josh] is very motivated,” Rummerfiled said. “He is one of the brightest young individuals that I’ve met. He is going to go far.”
“He is a positive-thinking man,” Monster Racing publicist Fred Krug said of the 19-year-old.
Monster Racing operates independently from Dover International Speedway and has a fleet of 25 cars that are retired from racing. Those cars are used for similar rides on the track.
The two injury survivors met at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, where a study on spinal cord injury is based. Rummerfiled is certified to drive at high speeds and Basile is a NASCAR fan, so Rummerfiled offered to give his young friend a ride.
“It was incredible,” Basile said of the experience. “It was like being in the front seat of a rollercoaster.”
Basile is one of the first participants at Kennedy Krieger and its new International Center for Spinal Cord Injury, which the institute says is the world’s first such center. Part of the motivation behind the event at Dover was to raise awareness of spinal cord injuries and related research.
Krug noted that Basile also does motivational talks at schools, expanding his part in education about such injuries beyond a single event or participation in research. But all three men are focused on such work as a pathway to the future for treatment and recovery.
“I think with the new International Center for Spinal Cord Injury, the future is bright,” Rummerfiled said of those with similar injuries to his own.