Medical Marvel

Posted on January 27, 2008 

Medical Marvel

Doctors can’t explain why Pat Rummerfield is able to run marathons and race cars. Even so, there are scores of quadriplegics who long to follow in his footsteps.

Rummerfield often is described as the world’s most fully functioning quadriplegic, meaning he copes with severe loss of function in his arms and legs. (Paraplegics, as a rule, are affected only from the chest down.) “He’s missing two-thirds of his spinal column,” notes John McDonald, director of Kennedy Krieger’s spinal center. “If you lined up 10 people’s MRIs that look identical to Pat’s, nine would be in wheelchairs.”

By any reasonable definition, Rummerfield qualifies as a medical miracle. That poses some beguiling questions. Is he a lone Lazarus, or can his comeback be replicated on a grand scale? Contrary to conventional wisdom, are spinal cord injuries curable?

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