n 1974, Patrick Rummerfield was given 72 hours to live after being involved in a car crash that caused numerous injuries, including paralysis from the neck down.
Not only did Rummerfield survive, his recovery far exceeded the expectations of many, as years of intensive physical rehabilitation enabled him to regain nearly complete mobility.
On Wednesday, Rummerfield, now 58, visited the General Motors Bowling Green Assembly Plant to talk to employees there about his story, and got to work on the assembly line helping put together Corvettes.
Walking somewhat off-kilter because of lingering nerve damage in one of his legs, Rummerfield worked the line Wednesday morning, placing the hoods on each Corvette, doing something he said he had dreamed about for years.
The upbeat Rummerfield compared the experience on the line to being one of "Santa's little helpers."
"This is a lot harder than it looks," Rummerfield said. "There are a lot of different steps you have to remember just to fit the hood down on the car."
Rummerfield now works for the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Maryland as the patient/community relations liaison.
Dedicating himself to improving the lives of others with spinal cord injuries, Rummerfield has helped establish nonprofit organizations NextSteps Foundation and Adventures on Wheels.
"His story is the story about holding on to your dreams and realizing your dreams," Plant Manager Dave Tatman said.
Rummerfield travels extensively, giving lectures on accident prevention and safety issues and delivering motivational speeches.
"My goal is to raise $10 million for paralysis research," Rummerfield said.
Rummerfield has made a habit of meeting goals that seem unattainable.
He was a passenger in the car - a Corvette, coincidentally - that crashed 38 years ago in a drunk driving accident in which the car had been traveling as fast as 135 mph.
Hospitalized with a neck fractured in four places, a shattered collar bone, fractures to all his ribs and massive head injuries, Rummerfield's prognosis was grim.
After surviving the initial three days that he was given to live, Rummerfield decided against doctors' suggestions that he be placed in a long-term nursing care facility, opting instead for physical rehab.
Rummerfield was operating a wheelchair with his mouth when he had his first breakthrough.
Visualizing his athletic childhood, in which he ran and played basketball, and envisioning a future in which he could drive a race car, Rummerfield was able to move his left big toe while lying in bed, he said.
The intensive therapy continued as he learned to walk and use his hands again. Daily exercise helped accelerate his recovery.
"It took me 17 years to get to this level of function," Rummerfield said.
Now, with more than 85 percent of his spinal cord destroyed in his neck at the C-4 spinal nerve, Rummerfield has competed in marathons and triathlons, running the Antarctica Marathon in 1997 in subzero temperatures.
He has also completed the 155-mile Gobi Desert March foot race and was a torch-bearer for the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Several months ago, Rummerfield contacted the Corvette plant about visiting the facility where his favorite car is made.
Plant officials arranged with Rummerfield to have him visit Wednesday, where he was a guest speaker for the plant's monthly all-employee meeting.
"One of his unrealized dreams was to build Corvettes," Tatman said.
Today, Rummerfield will be involved in the plant's annual employee health fair, where he will sign copies of his book "Green Bananas," which chronicles his life.