A letter from an Athlete | Rio Peterson
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.
A Letter From an Athlete
High Fives is honored to be associated with Rio, seeing him take on tasks and challenges sent his away and overcome them is something that we all strive to do as well as Rio.
Rio sustained a spinal cord injury while skiing the famous headwall lift at Squaw Valley.
After learning of his new reality, Rio had a decision to make. He had to decide whether he was going to beat this injury or let it beat him. We are all very happy to say that he chose to tackle it head on and make the most of a life changing injury.
We are all looking forward to watching Rio continue to rock the world and represent the Foundation in incredible ways.
A Letter From Rio
I broke my neck, C5, on April 16, 2018. The last powder day of the ‘17 –’18 season at Squaw Valley. There was a lot of excitement that morning, knowing it was likely the last snow of the season. On my third run, I was traversing under the headwall lift. As the slope aspect changed, I skied out of powder onto hard crusty snow and over a bump and my knees did not account for the change in terrain. I was out of control and caught some air before coming down headfirst. Laying on my stomach I did a quick body scan – I was pain-free! Everything seemed fine but when I went to get up the only movement I had was the ability to lift my face off the snow. That moment was a nightmare.
I was transported to Renown Hospital in Reno. En route to the hospital, my thoughts were consumed with how different and challenging life would be going forward. I was devastated that my passions for skiing, biking, and fishing had just been destroyed. What I didn’t know was that the safety net of the outdoor sports community had already caught me. Roy Tuscany was aware of my injury before I even got to the hospital and was texting my phone while I was in the ambulance.
Coming out of surgery that night I was intubated and sedated. It was 30 days before I came off the ventilator. Like all families in this situation, mine was grief-stricken. They wanted to arrange the best possible recovery for me, but were clueless as to how to navigate this new world of spinal cord injury. On day two at the hospital, Roy met usl. This is when we learned the value of High Fives. His visit instilled hope, confidence, and a plan for recovery.
After 10 days in the ICU at Renown, I was transported to Craig Hospital to begin my recovery. At Craig, I began meeting High Fives athletes who were years out from their injury. Conversations with these athletes filled me with excitement for the future. They told me about the possibilities of recreating again, and how life may be different but can still be amazing. I felt extremely fortunate to be part of such an amazing community.
As discharge approached from Craig Hospital,it looked as though I would return home to a rural town in central Idaho where there was no wheelchair community, poor accessibility, and limited experience in spinal cord injury physical therapy. I wanted to stay in Colorado but did not have the financial means to do so. I then learned about High Fives Empowerment Grant. Funding from this grant allowed me to stay in Colorado to do intensive SCI PT. This changed my life! I transformed from using a power chair and barely able to lift a bed sheet off of my chest, to pushing a manual chair, and feeding myself.
Fall of 19’ I went to a fly fishing camp with High Fives in Montana. Floating down the river, hearing the water, being surrounded by beautiful scenery, and the adrenaline of hooking fish made me completely forget that living with this injury is hard. For me, it was the moment I realized Icould enjoy life just as much as before my injury.
To everyone involved with High Fives, thank you. Thank you for supporting not just me but all High Fives Athletes. Without your financial and emotional support, I would not be where I am today.