Paralyzed from the neck down, Rob Camm hasn’t let that stop him from crushing one of the toughest races on Earth.
image via cammpaign4rob // facebook
As far as athletic contests go, the Tough Mudder competitions are pretty aptly named: Tough as hell, and chock full of mud, the 10-12 mile race is more akin to boot camp training than your standard half-marathon. Participants run, crawl, climb, and leap their way to the finish line, sometimes while raising money for charity, and sometimes for the sheer thrill and sense of personal achievement.
For Rob Camm, though, it was both.
Camm has been paralyzed from the neck down since an accident in 2013 left him with permanent spinal damage. Dependent on a ventilator to help him breathe, and a wheelchair to move, Rob has not let paralysis get in the way of his adventurous spirit; This summer, at just 21 years old, Rob Camm became the first quadriplegic participant to complete a Tough Mudder competition.
Outfitted in an custom Extreme X8 electric wheelchair, which he controls with his chin, Rob explained to The Gloucestershire Echo:
I wanted to do a Tough Mudder before the accident and still wanted to do it now. I've got a wheelchair that's capable of doing it, so I thought 'why not?' It's a wheelchair set on top of a quad bike and I've not found anything that can stop it yet.
Here’s what he means:
Rob Camm and team Special Effect take on Hero Carry as part of their epic journey round Tough Mudder South West this weekend #overcomeallobstacles #neverseenthatbeforePosted by Tough Mudder UK on Monday, August 24, 2015
But Rob wasn’t simply participating for the sake of participating. In addition to training for the competition, Camm spent the weeks prior to the race raising money for SpecialEffect, a UK based tech-firm which specializes in custom video game accessories which allow users with partial or full paralysis to enjoy the same gaming experience as anyone with full mobility. Explains Camm:
A great help during [my rehabilitation] was SpecialEffect who provided an eye gaze computer (controlled by blinking and eye movement). This provided much-needed relief from the realities of my prolonged stay in hospital. Not only that it enable me to begin another important part of rehab in how to to reconnect with the world and do things for myself.
On his JustGiving crowdfunding page, Rob has managed to raise nearly $10,000 for SpecialEffect. And while, ultimately, he was unable to participate in certain features of the race–swinging across monkey bars, and scaling high walls, for example–Camm has made an impact both on and off the Mudder course. Speaking with The Independant, Tought Mudder vice-president John Fidoe said:
We were thrilled to have Rob join us this past weekend at Tough Mudder South West and watch him become the first tetraplegic in the world to complete a Tough Mudder course His strength, determination and courage have inspired all of us at Tough Mudder and Mudders around the world
In addition to his hardcore wheels, Rob is also working with Rex Bionics to test pilot a new robotic exoskeleton which operates using dozens of skull-attached electrodes that translate Rob’s brain signals into mechanical movement. It’s just one of the ways Rob is making sure that life after his accident is as full, and enriching as it was before. Speaking again with the Gloucestershire Echo, he explains: “People think that someone in my position shouldn't be doing what I'm doing, but I'm just going to prove them wrong”