“It isn’t what you have, it’s what you do with it,” is an axiom that is used in speaking of many things, but it applies particularly to Pat Rummerfield, who last year set a new land speed record.

In 1974, Rummerfield was involved in a near-fatal car accident, for which he freely admits responsibility. “My best friend and I had had too much to drink when he rolled my Corvette at 135 miles per hour,” he recalled. With every rib fractured, his neck broken in four places, his collarbone shattered, and with massive head injuries, Rummerfield defied his doctors’ expectations just by surviving.

After extensive physical rehabilitation, Rummerfield first noticed that he could move a single toe. It took another three years to learn how to walk and use his hands. Over the next 14 years, Rummerfield struggled with balance and coordination problems and has endured five knee surgeries and total reconstruction of his right ankle and wrist. To this day, nerve damage to the right side of his body has left him with an off-kilter gait.

So complete was Rummerfield’s rehabilitation by 1991 that he began to compete in triathlons, including the famous Iron Man in Hawaii. And in 1997, he became one of only 82 people to complete the grueling 26.2 mile Antarctica Marathon. “I thought it would be an easy run across the tundra, but the course crossed glaciers, icy streams, rock beds, and soggy beaches in sub-zero temperatures and 45 mph winds,” he said.

Inspiring as his story is, what does it have to do with the electrical industry? About three years ago, Rummerfield contacted Graybar Electric, St Louis, Mo., to sponsor him in an attempt to break the electric car land speed record. “I approached Graybar because the company is known as a national leader in supplying traditional electrical and VDV products and I believed a relationship with them would be a natural for my goal,” he said.

After his first meeting at Graybar, Rummerfield understood the company’s mission of elevating performance through increased efficiency and realized that Graybar and he shared a vision. “Making movement more efficient is what I’ve been doing with my body since the accident.” Graybar, along with many other members of organizations within the electrical industry, pride themselves on being involved in more aspects of society than just supplying products and services. “Our company has been a long-time supporter of many causes, including researching and curing spinal cord injuries,” said Carl Lagerquist, vice president of sales and marketing for Graybar.

In 1999, Rummerfield and Graybar reached their immediate goal when Rummerfield, in Graybar’s White Lightning, set a certified two-way land speed record of 245.523 mph. “Through my association with Graybar, and events such as this, my long-term goal is to heighten public awareness of paralysis and to go further toward establishing a global network of telemedicine and to raise funds for medical research,” Rummerfield said.

Today, Rummerfield works as the performance assessment coordinator for the injury prevention center at Barnes-Jewish-Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. He is responsible for coordinating medical studies and for working with companies in an effort to reduce injuries.

Rummerfield has also established the NextSteps Foundation. “The Foundation’s mission is to help in the funding and implementation of new cutting-edge technologies that will permit rapid medical diagnosis and treatment of paralysis,” he explained. The use of rapid medical diagnosis and the latest preventative paralysis treatment protocols will greatly reduce the loss of movement associated with paralysis.

The Foundation is also starting a global communication network designed to help anyone affected by paralysis. The long-term goal of this network is to build a community that will facilitate the exchange of medical and rehabilitative information and provide techniques to better and more quickly diagnose and treat spinal cord injuries or any other physical trauma.

Rummerfield has received ESPN’s ARETE Award for Courage in Sports and the Human Spirit Award from Gateway to a Cure, the organization for which Christopher Reeves works tirelessly to raise money.

In 2001, Rummerfield will attempt to break his own record in Graybar’s White Lightning II electric car. Other industry sponsors will include Greenlee Textron, Inc.; Klein Tools, Inc.; Ideal Industries, Inc.; 3M Electrical Products; Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp.; Burndy Products; Panduit Corp.; Fluke Corporation; and Square D Co. Rummerfield will also be a speaker at the 2001 Annual Convention and 100th anniversary celebration of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA).

Electric cars, including Graybar’s White Lightning II, operate from 6,120 sub-C batteries. The charge from the batteries operates the motor and all of the electrical and digital components of the vehicle. The car’s batteries are engineered to hold a charge for three minutes. “Data from the White Lightning II can help engineers figure out how to design batteries that will hold a charge a lot longer,” Rummerfield said.

Engineers are already beginning to research development of better batteries that will generate more power for a longer time. The limiting factor of electric cars for consumers today is distance. “Once that problem is solved through research sponsored by such companies as Graybar, the use of electric cars can become more widespread,” Rummerfield predicted.

BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to Electrical Contractor. She can be reached at (410) 394-6966 or by e-mail at dbremer@erols.com.