James Vollmer (Jamestown) paralyzed Dec 2010

Discussion about ways to make the sport safer and discussion of past injuries so we can learn how to avoid them in the future.
User avatar
rainbowgirl28
I'm in Charge
Posts: 30435
Joined: Sat Aug 31, 2002 1:59 pm
Expertise: Former College Vaulter, I coach and officiate as life allows
Lifetime Best: 11'6"
Gender: Female
World Record Holder?: Renaud Lavillenie
Favorite Vaulter: Casey Carrigan
Location: A Temperate Island
Contact:

James Vollmer (Jamestown) paralyzed Dec 2010

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Fri Dec 24, 2010 11:54 am

http://collegian.jc.edu/node/606


A life changes in a second: Two-sport Jimmie athlete paralyzed
Posted December 13th, 2010 by April Baumgarten
When thinking of Track & Field, the last thing on anyone’s mind is the possibility of injury. Maybe a hamstring tear here and there, or even an ankle sprain during some hurdles, but never spinal injuries. Unfortunately, that was the case on December 1, 2010.

James Vollmer is a two sport athlete. As a starting cornerback on the football team, James had 36 tackles (9 of which for losses) in 9 games this season for the Jimmies. On the Track & Field team, James was a true competitor and represented the Jimmies as a Pole Vaulter. As a fellow teammate explained, “James was a true leader. He basically coached the Pole Vaulters.”

Last week, tragedy encompassed the Larsen Center facility as Vollmer experienced a Pole Vaulting accident. James said he didn’t know what happened.

“It was a normal jump to begin with,” James said. “I thought I hit the box right, so I turned my body and pulled, and at that moment I realized I wasn’t over the pit.”

The pit is the padded area where the athletes land. Realizing he wasn’t where he was supposed to be in his jump, James let go of his pole and fell strait down onto the box. The box is the area in which pole vaulters thrust their pole to gain momentum to get over the bar.

His body was in an awkward position. His head and feet were leaning on the sides of the pit, and his back directly on top of the box. In other words, James was on his back and his body was in the shape of a “U”. Coach Crawford was there when James fell.

“He was completely conscious,” Crawford said. “He knew he had hurt his back. He felt pain. James actually told us to call 911 before we could tell ourselves.” It took about 10 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, but, as Crawford puts it, it felt like an hour.

Because of the awkward position that James was in, medics were unsure how to exactly move him. Luckily, Crawford had used some jackets to support his back.

“With back injuries, you can never be too careful. We just wanted to make sure his back had support.”
Vollmer clearly remembers lying on the ground waiting for the medics to get him on the stretcher.
“I couldn’t move my legs, but I could move my arms. I was pretty sure I had broken my back.”

As for pain killers, James toughed it out and withstood the pain because if he had taken the pain killers doctors wouldn’t be able to clearly determine where the injuries were.

“The pain was awful,” James said, “but there was nothing I could do about it. I knew complaining wouldn’t help.”

So James lay there, unable to move, with the life-changing idea that he may no longer walk again.
Once the medics were able to get James to Jamestown Hospital, doctors took several MRIs and CT scans. However, a medivac from Fargo was in the air and inbound. James finally reached the hospital in Fargo and underwent surgery for four hours.

At 12:30am, he received official news: His spine was completely severed. James had experienced a severe spinal injury from his T6 to T12 vertebrae (Thoracic vertebrae are located between the middle and upper back). In other words, he was paralyzed from the waist down. Typically, pole vaulting accidents affect the head. This type of accident was rare.

Asking James questions about the accident was difficult. How do you ask someone what it’s like to never be able to walk again? But throughout the conversation, James’s confidence and composure restored all doubts. There aren’t many people as mentally strong as this individual.

“In football, I learned how to bump-and-run a defender,” James said. “Once track time came, I had to change my thought process and learn how to pole vault higher. Now I’m at a point in my life where I have to learn how to live in a wheelchair. It’s just a matter of being able to switch mindsets.” Just hearing him confidently explain his whole outlook on life was an experience hard to put into words.

James is set to head to the Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado. The Craig Hospital is a national renowned hospital specializing in the treatment of spinal injuries. There he will undergo 10-12 weeks of rehabilitation. During rehab, he will practice basic everyday actions like getting from his wheelchair to his bed, getting up stairs, and being able to get back into his chair if he falls out.

In a split second his whole life had changed. Every step that we take for granted, James is learning how to live without. In life, we aren’t determined by how life lives us, but rather how we live life. James may no longer walk over the bumps that annoy our daily lives. Instead, he will most likely roll over the mountains of situations we’ll never experience.

User avatar
rainbowgirl28
I'm in Charge
Posts: 30435
Joined: Sat Aug 31, 2002 1:59 pm
Expertise: Former College Vaulter, I coach and officiate as life allows
Lifetime Best: 11'6"
Gender: Female
World Record Holder?: Renaud Lavillenie
Favorite Vaulter: Casey Carrigan
Location: A Temperate Island
Contact:

Re: James Vollmer (Jamestown) paralyzed Dec 2010

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Fri Dec 24, 2010 12:01 pm

Here are his stats on athletic.net: http://www.athletic.net/TrackAndField/A ... AID=711754

I have his personal best at 4.30m (14-1.25). Tends to NH.

User avatar
rainbowgirl28
I'm in Charge
Posts: 30435
Joined: Sat Aug 31, 2002 1:59 pm
Expertise: Former College Vaulter, I coach and officiate as life allows
Lifetime Best: 11'6"
Gender: Female
World Record Holder?: Renaud Lavillenie
Favorite Vaulter: Casey Carrigan
Location: A Temperate Island
Contact:

Re: James Vollmer (Jamestown) paralyzed Dec 2010

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Fri Dec 24, 2010 1:52 pm

I'll go ahead and address the issues here...

The HUGE number one problem is that this athlete let go of the pole when he reportedly knew he "wasn't where he was supposed to be". That's HUGE

Other factors:
- What technique problems caused things to go wrong in the first place
- How much instruction he had received from his coach to hang on to the pole if things go wrong
- I guess you could argue that a really good box collar and/or softbox could have reduced the injury, but that is extremely speculative and there's no way of knowing


Moral of the story, as John Besmer would say, "NEVER LET GO OF THE POLE!!"


I am not trying to be callous with this. I hope that James is able to have some sort of recovery. I think this is a very unfortunate accident. It also points to education being the root of our problems and solution, not equipment.

User avatar
VaultPurple
PV Addict
Posts: 1079
Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 9:44 pm
Expertise: Former College Vaulter, College Coach, Pole Vault Addict
Favorite Vaulter: Greg Duplantis
Location: North Carolina

Re: James Vollmer (Jamestown) paralyzed Dec 2010

Unread postby VaultPurple » Fri Dec 24, 2010 3:36 pm

You said it best "NEVER LET GO OF THE POLE"

That was first thing i was taught when I started pole vaulting.

Also from the looks of it that it they did not have a pole vault coach. I am guessing this from one of the team mates in the article said Vollmer pretty much coached the pole vaulters. And their website list two coaches which seem to specialize in long distance running and throws.

User avatar
master
PV Addict
Posts: 1336
Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2005 2:03 am
Expertise: Masters Vaulter, Volunteer HS Coach, Former College Vaulter
Lifetime Best: 4.36m
Location: Oregon

Re: James Vollmer (Jamestown) paralyzed Dec 2010

Unread postby master » Sat Dec 25, 2010 4:28 pm

Very sad to learn of this; regardless of the cause(s). My best wishes for the most recovery possible.
- master . . . http://www.plvlt.com

User avatar
Bubba PV
PV Addict
Posts: 1395
Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2005 2:58 pm
Expertise: Former College Vaulter, High School Coach, College Coach, Former Elite Vaulter, Masters Vaulter, FAN
Lifetime Best: 5.51
Favorite Vaulter: Bubka
Location: Monarch Beach (Dana Point), California
Contact:

Injury Alters Pole Vaulter's Life

Unread postby Bubba PV » Tue Dec 28, 2010 10:18 am

http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/local/ ... 002e0.html

Injury Alters Pole Vaulter's Life
It was a routine James Vollmer had perfected and done countless times in his career as a pole-vaulter at Rapid City Stevens High School and at Jamestown College in North Dakota.

And then his routine - and his life - were shattered.

During a practice vault on Dec. 1, Vollmer missed the landing mat, falling about 15 feet, severing his spinal cord and leaving him permanently paralyzed from the navel down.

Vollmer was airlifted from Jamestown Hospital to Sanford Health in Fargo, N.D., where he immediately underwent a four-hour spinal surgery where an 18-inch rod was inserted into his back to stabilize his spine.

"As soon as I got (to Fargo), I was in surgery," Vollmer said. "That bed they had me on didn't stop until I was in the surgery room."

----------

It was a typical day for Vollmer, a schedule he had grown accustomed to while attending Jamestown College. He had recently wrapped up football season, where he was a defensive back for the Jimmies, and he was beginning to get prepared for track.

"I was just trying to get in shape, had just been in football season, so I had to make a quick switch from football to track," he said. "I have to be able to do that pretty quickly because that's two different shapes all together to be in.

"I figured I should get a head start on that."

So as he had done in previous years, he went to Jamestown College's indoor practice facility, the Larson Sports Center, to work on the routine he had perfected during his years as a standout track athlete for the Stevens Raiders.

And soon the day went from routine to life-changing.

Vollmer said he is still not entirely sure what in the mechanics of his vault went wrong.

"If I were a guessing man, I'd guess my speed slowed down a little bit and my plant step ended up being a little bit under, which caused me to go straight up in the air," he said. "And then I didn't realize that I wasn't going to make it to the pit by the time I was inverted and letting go of my pole."

Vollmer said that when he realized he wasn't going to make the pit, he remembered a fundamental he was taught when he first picked up the pole.

"When I let go of my pole, I kind of spread my body out ... because the first thing you are taught in pole vaulting is how to fall, and that's to spread your body out to distribute your body weight," he said.

Falling from 15 feet, Vollmer landed in the vault box, where the pole is planted to begin the vault. His head and feet landed on the pads on either side of the box, with the middle of his body landing and sliding down into the vault box, creating a sort of "U" shape.

"What actually ended up happening is my feet hit the pole vault pits on one side, and my shoulder and head hit the pits on the other side, and my butt slid down into the box, and my back landed right on the edge of the box and it broke it right in half with the angle of the body.

"So my body pretty much split in half."

The accident played out in front of other student-athletes and coaches at Jamestown, so people were by Vollmer's side instantly calling for a trainer.

But Vollmer knew it was far worse than that.

"Everyone started yelling to call a trainer," he said, "and before I let anyone call a trainer, I told them immediately to call an ambulance because I had no feeling in my legs at all."

When emergency medical technicians arrived on the scene, Vollmer said, they were stunned at what they saw. They also were stumped.

"They actually had to take a step back and think about how they were even going to come and get that board under me without moving me or causing me any more injury than had already happened," Vollmer said. "My legs were up and my neck was up but my back and my butt were actually down in a hole."

Vollmer said rescue workers had to lift him up, pull the pits away and place the backboard under him all at the same time.

"All my track coaches, my track teammates, the EMTs, even some of the softball people there had to help," Vollmer said. "Everyone simultaneously pulled all the pits out at the same time; they rolled me over and rolled me back on to the board in one motion. But just figuring that all out, I'd say I laid there a good half-hour, 45 minutes.

Vollmer was taken to Jamestown Hospital where he underwent initial CAT scans until he was flown to Fargo.

----------

Ginger Vollmer remembers the feeling she got when she first heard the news about her son's accident.

"His girlfriend, Lacy Ripplinger, was right there; she's a pole-vaulter too, and she called me the instant it happened," Ginger Vollmer said. "She told us that he was able to move his arms and his head and he was conscious and talking, but that he couldn't feel his legs.

"It was pretty devastating."

Ginger Vollmer said she and James' dad, Kelvin, left for Fargo to be by their son's side. So while James was in surgery, his parents were traveling through South Dakota.

"We took off as soon as we could, but, of course, we were driving for hours and hours and hours," she said. "But the hospital was wonderful, they called us every hour. The surgeon called us twice and kept us updated on the progress and then after surgery he called us again because we hadn't quite gotten (to Fargo). We arrived about 15 minutes before they wheeled him out of the recovery room."

----------

James Vollmer said doctors initially told him his spine was two-thirds severed and they placed his prognosis to walk again around 40 percent.

Following Vollmer's surgery and after doctors had a chance to review the injury, those numbers changed.

"After surgery and after they had a little time to look at the scans a little better," Vollmer said, "they diagnosed that my spine had been completely severed and I have less than a 5 percent chance of walking."

Even after being hit with the realization that his life as he had known it had changed, Vollmer never wavered in his belief that he could beat the odds.

"The first thought I had was that I have more work ahead of me, and that's what I've got to do," he said of hearing his prognosis. "It's not going to be about whether or not I'm going to walk. That's all I'm thinking right now."

The road to beating those long odds began when James was transferred from Fargo to Craig Hospital in Denver. The hospital is exclusively dedicated to spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury rehabilitation, and research. James found out he was accepted on Dec. 7, something the entire Vollmer family was grateful for.

"They said 10 to 12 weeks is about the rehab time," Vollmer said of his stay in Colorado. "But the (physical therapy) people I've been working with (in Fargo), have said I've already advanced two weeks past what anyone else has been working at. So I'm already ahead of schedule."

Vollmer has refused to take anything but a positive look on his situation, even as he faces weeks of intense rehab.

"You can't really think ‘why me.' You have to think it happened, and you have to deal with it," he said. "If you dwell on what happened in the past, you're never going to get over it. It happened, it's time to move on and get over it."

Contact Andrew Cutler at 394-8291 or Andrew.cutler@rapidcityjournal.com
Bubba Sparks - www.bubbapv.com

Support Becca & Pole Vault Power

User avatar
rainbowgirl28
I'm in Charge
Posts: 30435
Joined: Sat Aug 31, 2002 1:59 pm
Expertise: Former College Vaulter, I coach and officiate as life allows
Lifetime Best: 11'6"
Gender: Female
World Record Holder?: Renaud Lavillenie
Favorite Vaulter: Casey Carrigan
Location: A Temperate Island
Contact:

Re: James Vollmer (Jamestown) paralyzed Dec 2010

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Wed Dec 29, 2010 5:48 pm

You can get updates about James through his CaringBridge page: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jamesnewjourney

User avatar
rainbowgirl28
I'm in Charge
Posts: 30435
Joined: Sat Aug 31, 2002 1:59 pm
Expertise: Former College Vaulter, I coach and officiate as life allows
Lifetime Best: 11'6"
Gender: Female
World Record Holder?: Renaud Lavillenie
Favorite Vaulter: Casey Carrigan
Location: A Temperate Island
Contact:

Re: James Vollmer (Jamestown) paralyzed Dec 2010

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Wed Jan 12, 2011 4:00 am

http://www.inforum.com/event/article/id ... up/Sports/

Coaches don't doubt chances that Jamestown College senior can recover from paralysis
JAMESTOWN, N.D. – Doctors have told James Vollmer his chances of walking again are slim.
By: Dave Selvig / Forum Communications Co., INFORUM


JAMESTOWN, N.D. – Doctors have told James Vollmer his chances of walking again are slim.

But the Jamestown College two-sport standout has spent much of his life overcoming long odds, and the coaches who know him best are unanimous in their opinion: Don’t ever bet against James Vollmer.

“James is one of those guys that someday I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see him in the Boston Marathon in one of those wheelchair deals,” JC football coach Bud Etzold said. “Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him beat the odds and be on his feet one day, either.

“James Vollmer is one of those kids you wouldn’t ever bet against.”

Vollmer was seriously injured in a pole-vaulting accident Dec. 1 at the Larson Center, preparing for the upcoming indoor track and field season. While attempting a vault, he missed the landing mat and fell 15 feet, severing his spinal cord and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

Vollmer was airlifted from Jamestown Hospital to Sanford Health in Fargo, where he underwent four hours of emergency spinal surgery and had an 18-inch rod inserted into his back to stabilize the spine.

Doctors have said he has just a 5 percent chance of walking again.

Jamestown College will hold a benefit for Vollmer and his family during the Jimmies’ basketball doubleheader against Valley City State on Thursday night at Jamestown Civic Center to help defray the mounting medical expenses.

He’s currently at the Craig Institute in Denver, which specializes in traumatic spinal cord and brain injuries. The current program he is in was supposed to last 12 weeks, but Vollmer expects to complete it in 10, which does not surprise any of his coaches.

“James was a very talented two-sport athlete for us, and to do that you have to be driven and committed to that task and he certainly was that,” JC men’s track and field coach Ed Crawford said. “There’s no doubt his life has changed. He was dealt a serious blow, but James is such a positive and confident kid. He’s really focused on moving ahead with his life.

“He’s a special kid.”

Vollmer was known for doing whatever the team needed.

In football, he played cornerback for the Jimmies and made a major impact. This past season he made 36 tackles, 4 of them for loss.

In track, pole-vaulting was his first love. In fact Crawford said, “Nobody in our program knew more about pole vaulting than James.”

But he was also more than willing to fill in wherever needed.

“He was all about what he could do for the team,” JC women’s track and field coach Jim Clark said. “He loved the pole vault, but if you needed someone to long jump, triple jump or high jump to help the team score some more points he would gladly do that.

“He was confident in everything he did and he pretty much excelled. He was an excellent kid to have on the team because it wasn’t about him. It was about what he could do to help the Jimmies.”

Vollmer, a Rapid City, S.D., native came to Jamestown College in 2007. He is just two classes short of finishing his degree in radiology technology. He plans to return to school here next fall, which surprises nobody. His story has already inspired many and brought the close-knit Jamestown College together.

“Things like this galvanize a community, and a big part of that is the type of approach and outlook James has put on his situation,” Etzold said. “The way he’s attacking this challenge is awe inspiring.”

User avatar
rainbowgirl28
I'm in Charge
Posts: 30435
Joined: Sat Aug 31, 2002 1:59 pm
Expertise: Former College Vaulter, I coach and officiate as life allows
Lifetime Best: 11'6"
Gender: Female
World Record Holder?: Renaud Lavillenie
Favorite Vaulter: Casey Carrigan
Location: A Temperate Island
Contact:

Re: James Vollmer (Jamestown) paralyzed Dec 2010

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Fri Jan 14, 2011 12:29 am

http://www.inforum.com/event/article/id ... up/Sports/


Upbeat despite adversity: Paralysis is just latest challenge for Vollmer
Jamestown, N.D. - James Vollmer isn’t the, “Why me?” type.
By: Dave Selvig / Forum Communications Co., INFORUM

James Vollmer works out on a bike as his muscles are stimulated by electrodes, which make his legs move.Ginger Vollmer / Special to The Forum

Jamestown, N.D. - James Vollmer isn’t the, “Why me?” type.

For much of his life, the Jamestown College football player and track and field athlete has been forced to overcome obstacles life has sent his way.

But the latest hurdle is the greatest.

Vollmer was born with severe eye cataracts. In the seventh grade he suffered an eye injury which caused glaucoma, requiring surgically implanted lenses.

As a freshman in high school, he had a metal rod surgically placed into his chest to, “bring my sunken chest out,” which also required the breaking and reforming of all his ribs.

“There’s always been a challenge in my life,” Vollmer said. “I’ve always had to prove them wrong.”

It’s that positive outlook on life that Vollmer is applying to his latest, and most daunting challenge.

The 22-year-old Rapid City, S.D., native was seriously injured in a pole-vaulting accident Dec. 1 at the Larson Center, preparing for the upcoming indoor track and field season.

While attempting a vault, he missed the landing mat and fell 15 feet, severing his spinal cord and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

Doctors have said he has just a 5 percent chance of walking again.

Jamestown College will hold a benefit for Vollmer and his family during the Jimmies’ basketball doubleheader against Valley City State tonight at the Civic Center to help defray medical expenses.

Updates on his progress can be found on his Caring Bridge blog site, named “James’ New Journey” at www.caringbridge.org/visit.jamesnewjourney/journal.2. An account has also been set up at Wells Fargo and can be found at “Donations for James Vollmer.”

Despite his seemingly endless string of serious physical setbacks, Vollmer remains inspiringly optimistic.

“Having negative thoughts, or asking, ‘Why me?’ isn’t going to do any good. I have too much work to do,” he said. “I’m focused on the future and trying to do the best I can on the challenge in front of me.”

Vollmer is at the Craig Institute in Denver, which specializes in traumatic spinal cord and brain injuries. He was originally supposed to be in Denver for between 10 to 12 weeks, but has exceeded the early projections and should be done in seven weeks. His tentative release date is Feb. 4, one day after his birthday.

The rehab process has been a grueling one, he said, but he’s encouraged by the results.

“They definitely know what they’re doing here,” he said. “What I’ve been doing recently is a pretty hard-core lifting class. I’m busy pretty much from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.”

Most of the program is centered on what he’ll do once he leaves Craig Institute and goes home.

“A lot of it is structured toward what happens once I leave here. Say I fell out of my (wheel) chair. How do I get back into my chair? Or, how do I go outdoors? Or, how do you go down stairs without assistance?” he said. “It’s basically getting ready and adjusted for a new set of challenges.”

He’s looking forward to going home, though. And from there he hopes to return to Jamestown College next fall. He’s just two classes shy of getting his degree in radiology technology. He’s uncertain if he’ll be able to work in his original field of study, but if not, “I’ll go back to school and figure out something I can do,” he said.

That’s the attitude he’s attacked every challenge in his life with.

Whether it was playing cornerback in football or trying to master the pole vault – generally considered the most technical of any track and field event – Vollmer always pushed himself to the limit.

“I wanted to be the best I could. I didn’t want to settle for mediocrity, and that’s how I’m approaching this part of my life,” Vollmer said. “I can’t settle for less now.”

During the last five weeks, Vollmer has realized how close-knit the Jamestown College family is. It’s something he often heard his coaches talk about, but is experiencing it personally now.

“Coaches talk about family with the idea that your coaches are like father figures and your teammates are your brothers and sisters. I always liked that aspect of being at Jamestown, but I never really knew how true it was until this happened,” Vollmer said. “I got a letter from a lady who graduated from Jamestown College in 1962. I’ve gotten so many messages like that from people that I don’t even know, and there have been a lot of people that have helped me and my family out a lot through this.

“I had no idea how widespread the family aspect was at Jamestown College, but I’m definitely glad to be a part of that family.”

User avatar
rainbowgirl28
I'm in Charge
Posts: 30435
Joined: Sat Aug 31, 2002 1:59 pm
Expertise: Former College Vaulter, I coach and officiate as life allows
Lifetime Best: 11'6"
Gender: Female
World Record Holder?: Renaud Lavillenie
Favorite Vaulter: Casey Carrigan
Location: A Temperate Island
Contact:

Re: James Vollmer (Jamestown) paralyzed Dec 2010

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Sat Apr 14, 2012 11:49 am

http://www.coshoctontribune.com/usatoda ... ntpage%7Cp


Former pole vaulter doing well after tragic mishap
1:56 PM, Apr. 12, 2012 | Comments

By Lynn Taylor Rick, Rapid City Journal
RAPID CITY, S.D. (WTW) — Every once in a while, James Vollmer has a flashback to the accident.

It mostly happens when he's coaching high school pole vaulting and sees a mistake that could result in a dangerous landing.

"I have to look away," he says.

Vollmer, 24, knows a thing or two about the repercussions of dangerous landings.

On Dec. 1, 2010, the former Rapid City Stevens High School track standout was practicing pole vaulting at Jamestown College in Jamestown, N.D.

He began his vault without incident. But somewhere along the way, it all went terribly wrong. To this day, Vollmer still doesn't know exactly what happened, and he had no coach to offer any insight. But rather than landing safely on the mat surrounding the vault, Vollmer fell 15 feet directly down into the metal vault box — the slot where the pole plants.

The fall severed his spinal cord — just two strands remain attached — leaving him paralyzed from the belly button down.

"I remember it all, which kind of sucks," he said.

That's the shocking and life-altering part of Vollmer's story, but the exceptional part is what has happened since his accident.

Within two days of the fall — while still in the hospital in Fargo, N.D., — Vollmer learned to transfer himself from bed to wheelchair, already working at becoming mobile

"I just wanted to get out," he says with a smile.

Ten days after the accident, Vollmer transferred to Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colo., a rehabilitation facility specializing in spinal cord injuries. He threw himself into his new normal, relearning everything from rolling over to cooking. But he didn't stop there. He also wanted to relearn how to change a light bulb and even shovel snow from the vantage of his wheelchair.

"He moved through the program very quickly," said his Craig physical therapist, Stephanie Laube. "He's a problem-solver."

He also proved to be a popular patient, "bribing" Craig staff with his chicken cordon bleu and winning the hospital's cooking contest with his bacon-wrapped chicken, Laube said.

"James maintained a pretty upbeat and positive attitude," she said. "His willingness to laugh; we laughed a lot together and I think that really helped."

Vollmer said he decided early on that the accident would not ruin his life. There would be no self-pity.

"I can't change what happened," he said.

Instead, he focused on getting mobile and getting back to the things he loved. One of them was pole vaulting.

Two days after the accident, Vollmer called his former Stevens pole vaulting coach, Jeff Barnes. Vollmer had a simple question. "When I get back to Rapid, can I help?" Barnes remembers.

Ever since his Stevens High School days, Vollmer had helped younger pole vaulters whenever he was back from college. Barnes assured him he was still welcome.

"I wasn't surprised," Barnes said. "When he was in high school, we couldn't get him out of the gym."

Vollmer checked out of Craig on Feb. 2, 2011, the day before his birthday. He's been home in Rapid City ever since, finding his new normal.

Vollmer returned to the classroom, working toward his undergraduate degree at the University Center in Rapid City. He will graduate in the fall, and plans to apply to graduate school. He wants to become a school counselor and coach.

His career choice doesn't surprise Barnes in the least.

"He's great with the kids," he said. "The school that gets him will be lucky."

It doesn't surprise his former physical therapist either.

"That will be such a fantastic fit for him. He's a very motivating person," said Laube.

Vollmer spends most of his afternoons this spring in the Stevens High School gym doing just that — motivating. He parks his wheelchair near the mats, watching vaulters carefully, offering a tip here and there. In between vaults, he and the students banter.

Vollmer's experience at the vault serves him well, Barnes said. And his accident gets the kids' attention when it comes to safety

"I've never had kids listen to every word I said until now," Vollmer said. "It makes me cautious, maybe overly cautious."

During a recent track meet, Vollmer scratched an exhausted athlete when he discovered she had no training at pole vault. When her father urged her to try anyway, Vollmer stood his ground.

"I told her I have plenty of reasons why (she couldn't compete) and I'm sitting in one of them," he said.

While Vollmer's rehabilitation seems remarkable to the people in his life, it becomes even more so considering the continual pain he manages.

Laube said the condition is called neuropathic pain and occurs when the communication between the body and brain gets muddled due to a spinal cord injury. For Vollmer, he feels pain throughout his lower extremities

"It feels like you're being dipped into a boiling bath. That's what I feel all day, every day," Vollmer offers matter-of-factly.

Pain medications help, but don't eliminate it.

"I have to keep myself busy. If I'm not busy, it starts getting to me," he said. The nights are most difficult. Vollmer said he listens to music — anything but jazz — to distract him. Despite his commitment to remain positive, he admits the quiet of night is a perfect breeding ground for disappointment over the things that will never be.

"I can't do certain things now. It's going to take time to figure it out," he said.

But he can drive — his black pickup is especially equipped for him — which allows him some independence. He still lives with his parents, but assumes someday he will be able to live alone again. Until then, he doesn't mind.

"My family and I, we've been through a lot," he said.

Vollmer's mom, Ginger, spent the entire 2 1/2 months at Craig Hospital with her son.

She said her son is the reason the family has done so well during the past year.

"His strength is just amazing. Him being so strong has helped our family immensely . and our faith," she said. "His faith has helped him too. He can't quite understand why, but God works in mysterious ways."

Vollmer and his parents have not given up hope that medical advancements might enable him to walk again. He recently applied to a stem cell clinical trial in Switzerland, missing the cut-off for date of injury by just six weeks.

Vollmer isn't discouraged. He just keeps looking for others trials.

"I figure 10 years and they should have something," he said. He'll be 34 then, hopefully working as a counselor and coach. He figures he can handle 10 years if the end result means he walks again.

"I have things to keep me busy while I'm waiting," he said.


Return to “Pole Vault Safety”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests