A letter from an Athlete | Mike Greenlee

A letter from an Athlete | Mike Greenlee

Letters From an Athlete is a series that focuses on showcasing some of our Athletes, who are proud to represent and be supported by High Fives. It’s also a chance for us to show off how appreciative the Foundation is to continue to support these individuals as they chase dreams, complete goals, and inspire others.

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High Fives is honored to be associated with Mike Greenlee, the Reno Nevada native grew up with the Sierra Nevada in his back yard and he spent countless hours skiing, hiking and climbing on the world class terrain his home region had to offer. 

Unfortunately, while riding Squaw Valley in early season conditions, he lost consciousness on the chairlift and ended up falling 40 feet to the earth below.

Throughout his injury Mike has been an agent of positivity, he overcame adversity by remaining positive and working hard, since his accident Mike has returned to work and learned how to ski in a sit-ski. He continues to make High Fives proud on a daily basis and we are excited to see how he will continue to represent the foundation. 

A Letter From Mike

On Thanksgiving morning 2017, I was skiing alone at Squaw Valley, enjoying the early season conditions.  As I was riding the Siberia Chairlift, I lost consciousness and fell 40 feet to the ground. I remember riding the chairlift up to a point and then waking up in the helicopter to a hazy reality.  I spent 4 days in the ICU at Renown Regional Medical Center, followed by 9 days on the Neurosurgery Unit, healing from a successful T5 – T12 spinal fusion and double laminectomies.


A big choice I needed to make while recovering from surgery was where to go to rehab.  I decided to stay in Reno, near my wife and dog, and was admitted to Renown Rehabilitation Hospital.  I spent December 5th through January 2nd in rehab, learning how to live as a T9 complete paraplegic – from getting around in my wheelchair, independently using the bathroom, and finding the right medications to keep my body running smooth.


About 7 months after my injury, I started to notice a change in sensation in my left arm and back.  After extensive testing, a syrinx was found in my brainstem, which had formed due to scar tissue at my spinal cord injury.  Almost exactly one year after my injury, I went in for another surgery – this time a duraplasty and another laminectomy. This surgery was successful, and the syrinx has subsided.


I’m back to working 5 days a week and enjoying my weekends exploring the Tahoe region.  This past winter, through an Empowerment grant from High Fives, I had the opportunity to learn how to sit-ski with Achieve Tahoe and got a good four days on the mountain!  It was tons of fun, and I can’t wait to go again next season. I recently attended my first High Fives Camp; it was a collaboration with Return to Dirt, where a bunch of High Fives athletes went on a camping and 4-wheeling adventure.  It was an amazing and unique experience. It was really nice to be around people with similar injuries.


When I was in the rehab hospital, Roy Tuscany asked me if there was anything I was concerned about.  I expressed my worries about life back at my house, and how I was anxious to have renovations made to make my house wheelchair accessible.  Roy took my problem, and found a solution; he enlisted the help of the Dolan Auto Group and their contractors and architects to make my house completely wheelchair accessible!  It has been amazing to have such an incredible gift given to me – especially one that was given by people I had only just met. With a spinal cord injury, it is so easy to feel alone.  High Fives has provided me a community of people that I can relate to and High Fives has been there from the start to help pay for medical supplies and equipment, neither of which are very cheap.

In the near future, I’ll be taking some paddle sports lessons at Donner Lake, paid for by another Empowerment grant provided by High Fives.  I’m really looking forward to it! I can’t wait to get back to the water!


Thank you for becoming a part of this amazing community.

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