A letter from an Athlete | Tommy Michaels
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.
High Fives is honored to be associated with Tommy Michaels, seeing Tommy set goals and put his mind to completing them is nothing less than incredible.
The young Californian resident had an unfortunate cycling crash in Portland, Oregon. resulting in a spinal cord injury.
After learning of his new reality, Michaels took no time to feel sorry for himself, he instead looked forward to the future and how he was going to continue to live life the way that he wanted to.
Michael’s infectious positive attitude and dedication has taken him so far since her injury. We look forward to see how he will continue to represent the Foundation by being the best version of himself.
A Letter From Tommy
On August 18, 2017, I was cycling in Portland, OR on a flat dirt trail that took a blind turn around a tree.
Little did I know that this blind turn would lead me down some stairs away from a narrow bridge that
crossed a river. I braced myself for impact, but did not realize that the bike was about to throw me over
the handlebars head-first into the opposing riverbank. When I heard a crack and felt the momentum of
my body twisting me down this hill without feeling sensation, I knew something was wrong. Luckily I
was cycling with a friend who heard the crash and 911 was called immediately. After two cervical spinal
surgeries and two days in the hospital, my right leg began to move, followed by my right toes. When I
showed some doctors, they could not believe it and just stared wide-eyed right at me. There was hope.
I was initially transported from the hospital in Portland to Cleveland, Ohio for rehabilitation. I chose Ohio
to be closest to my direct family, but after realizing that this hospital was not a good fit for an injury of
this type I was connected with High-Fives and they helped facilitate my transfer from this hospital to
Craig Hospital in Denver. Within two days I was already on a flight to the number one spinal cord injury
rehab hospital in the US. I then spent the next 3.5 months in inpatient and outpatient rehab. Though I
still have mobility and sensation impairments, I firmly believe that I would not be where I am nor
walking today if it were not for the High-Fives Foundation and their resources
High-Fives initially helped me with facilitating an insurance-fighting transfer from one rehab facility to
the next, but then immediately surrounded me with several athletes in the area who had suffered their
own spinal cord injuries. The community and bond with these individuals at Craig Hospital made me
realize that I was in the right hands.
A spinal cord injury is like a reset button on your adulthood. You have never felt so violated, nor have
been so watched and helped by so many different adults. Being spoon fed and congratulated on using
the restroom is not where I wanted to be when I was 25. High-Fives helps pick folks up in the most
vulnerable state of their life during these injuries, whether it be through resources and connections,
providing grants to help build folks up who were once enjoying various outdoor action sports, or just
being of any sort of mental and physical support. Since my injury, High-Fives provided me with grants
to pursue indoor rock climbing again, get into adaptive surfing and has taken me to High-Fives
sponsored camps including the Winter Park Ski Camp this year. Most of all, High-Fives is my #1 support
line on tough days because the foundation’s employees and athletes have gone through the exact
A donation to High-Fives is more than supporting folks through grants; this organization provides
community, hope and happiness. Thank you so much for your donation!