By Mike Bush
O'Fallon, MO (KSDK) - Some people choose complex professions for very simple reasons.
"I just wanted to help people," says Dr. Ted Rummel.
Dr. Rummel is an orthopedic surgeon.
"It's a tremendous field," he said. " People most of the time, they get better."
He's been at BJC's Progress West Health Care Center in O'Fallon, Missouri since it opened in 2007.
"His patients love him," said Lisa Weindel, the Surgical Services manager.
Those patients often talk about his outgoing personality and his compassionate bedside matter and barely even mention that he's now a surgeon in a wheelchair.
He wasn't wounded in the Army, though he did spend six years serving his country as a helicopter pilot and medic.
"All my brothers were all in the military," he explained. " And my mother had a thing, seriously, that you had to give back to your country."
After going back to school on the GI Bill and becoming a doctor, he was living an active life when on a Monday in September of 2010, he left work with numbness in his leg.
"And by Thursday," he said, "There was no sensation. No motor function in either one of my legs."
Dr. Rummel had something called a cavernous hemangioma which is a congenital defect. It's essentially like a small lake of blood. It ruptured and bled into the spinal cord.
"It was unbelievable that this man with all this energy and everything was to have this diagnosis," said his nurse Diana Eisenbath.
"Really at that time we were worried if he was going to live or die," added Weindel.
Though he survived, after becoming a paraplegic, he wasn't sure his career would. He had to spend weeks in the hospital and then in rehab. Finally, he ran out of patience as a patient and made a decision.
"I can't stop doing this," he said. "This is what I like to do. I pick up my medical journals and I'd read them and I loved reading them."
Just eight months after walking out of the hospital, he rolled back in lifting the spirits of everyone around him.
"Having him come back not only brought work back to the employees but it also brought back his energy," said Weindel.
And it wasn't long after, that he was back in the operating room performing surgeries from his wheelchair.
"We can rotate the table," he explained. "The chair goes up and down and back and forth."
When you've been through his kind of trauma, you don't need legs to walk in the shoes of your patients. He knows the will it takes to get better and his dedication is an inspiration.
"It's kind of amazing to me. He could've quit and he didn't," said patient Marvin Fitzgerald.
Some seem destined to their occupations, others like Dr. Rummel are determined.
"He loves being a doctor and I just knew he'd find a way to do this," said Eisenbath.
"It was very scary and so now this is very special to be able to be back to work," explained Dr. Rummel.
He may repair shoulders, knees and hips but he got a second chance by following his heart.
"I'm not going to let a being a paraplegic determine who I am," he said.