“Nothing can really prepare you for a life-altering injury. Sure, you can sift through your arsenal of coping skills and pick out what you think you’ll need. You can tap the reserve of faith and fortitude you’ve been saving for this kind of thing. You can lean on your support network when you’re lagging. But the truth is, there is no ‘tragedy starter-pack.’ You just have to try to hit the ground running. Or in my case, rolling.
I suffered my spinal cord injury in a mountain biking accident in August of 2016, so as far as SCI goes, I’m a relative newbie. As an athlete (notice I didn’t say “former-“) the most challenging part of this hasn’t been losing the use of my legs, it’s been losing my outlet. Biking was my therapy, my stress-relief, my exercise, my social inroad. As such, the sudden inability to retreat to my sport was a profound loss. There are few who understood this like the folks of the High Fives Foundation, both the staff and the those they support. They appreciate the nuances of how immobility impacts athletes, from the changes in lifestyle and self-perception to their unique needs when it comes to rehabilitation and recovery.
I saw this firsthand when my wife Kim and I visited the C.R. Johnson Healing Center this month, on a trip that would mark the beginning of our relationship with and lifelong appreciation for High Fives. The training I experienced there was notably different than any other outpatient therapy I had participated in. They were focused on making gains, maximizing my potential and, most importantly, preserving that athletic drive that still burns inside of me. They didn’t see a patient in a wheelchair, or a client pursuing specific clinical outcomes… they saw a friend who shared their same enthusiasm for action mountain sports, who vibed off athletic camaraderie and community, who was pursuing a new avenue to a new passion. They created an environment where the ride was as fulfilling as the prospect of recovery. They stoked the stoke and heightened the hope, if you will. And we are forever grateful for that.
It will be a long road yet but, with the support and community network provided by High Fives, I have renewed confidence that my athletic pursuits won’t end where my wheelchair began. I’m used to making things happen on wheels, after all, and I’ve never been afraid of an uphill climb.” – #HighFivesAthlete Ryan St. Lawrence