Sam Schmidt has dreams. He dreams of being able to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding. He dreams of being able to drive a car on the street again. He wants as normal a life as he can. For the first time since the crash at Walt Disney World Speedway that rendered him a quadriplegic, one of his dreams is close to coming true.
The Heartland Film Festival premiered the movie Reengineering Sam yesterday. While it is mainly about building the car that Sam Schmidt drove around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the last two years, the film also tells Sam’s story from childhood to the present day. Ironically, his father was a racer who also had a crash that left him partially paralyzed on his right side. We also get an intimate look at Sam’s daily routine away from the racetrack and how his family tries to have as normal a life as possible.
The movie contains quite a bit of racing footage, mainly showing some horrific crashes. The 2011 crash at Las Vegas is shown, though not in its entirety. It was difficult to watch. Schmidt’s crash in 1998 where he broke his feet also appears. It was a foreshadowing of what was to come. His wife tells how he was in a wheelchair after that crash and all he wanted to do was get back in a racecar.
The majority of the film alternates between his family life as told by his wife, Sheila,his children, Savannah and Spencer, and his parents; and ongoing research and technology to help quadriplegics regain some mobility. A neurosurgeon wondered if it would be possible for a quadriplegic to drive a car. He had never heard of Sam until a colleague suggested him. Arrow Electronics was eager to build the car.
The movie ends triumphantly with Sam driving the modified Corvette around the Speedway in front of a cheering crowd. The state of Nevada just issued Sam the first driver’s license for a semi-autonomous vehicle. He is the first quadriplegic to receive this license.
Several noteworthy things about the film:
- Sheila Schmidt’s strength and dedication.
- The hope for all quadriplegics for more quality of life.
- Sam’s carry on attitude.
- The dedicated researchers in the military and hospitals who are working hard on the technology to help improve the lives of paralyzed people.
- The reminder to me to keep things in perspective.
Reengineering Sam has three more showings at the festival- tonight at 8 pm at Trader’s Point; Tuesday at 12:45 pm at Castleton; and Saturday at 10:45 am at Castleton.