Ski coach Roy Tuscany discovered a jump at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area that he just couldn’t shake from his mind. When he came back to the mountain two weeks later, he just had to try it again.
This time, with new skis to try and the snow a little firmer, he hit the 100 foot jump with too much pace and came crashing down from thirty feet in the air.
The aftermath was tough – with a fractured T12 vertebrae, Roy found himself struggling to come to grasps with the reality of what this meant. All he wanted to do was hit rewind.
”I had a real hardship moment with my mother, where I literallly professed that I did not want to do this anymore. She just looked at me like ‘I didn’t raise a son to have that outcome’.Roy TuscanyHigh Fives Founder
From there Roy knew that he had face up to his new reality and really understand the situation he was facing.
“I think that’s something that takes a period of time for someone to get to understand – that something has happened and that it’ll never be the same, but it can be awesome.”
By learning how to love himself for who he was, Roy was able to get through all of the rapid and often overwhelming changes that followed. Besides, he found his spinal cord injury acted as a natural filter which showed him who his true friends were in life.
“Life changing event lets you weed out the individuals you once thought were super close people in your life.”
Self-love is something he stresses in terms of being able to move forward, because only then is it possible to manifest whatever life you want. He definitely found dark moments when wondering why this had happened to him, but by putting his accident in the past and staying present he saw the possibilities opening up rapidly before him.
After his injury, Roy quickly learnt people were the biggest help – and suggests the faster you can meet and surround yourself with other people, the sooner you’ll reach that understanding and be able to move forward with your life.
“Surround yourself with good people – this allows you to create an ohana that’s not connected by blood, but something deeper – love for one another.”
The importance of having an ohana is huge, because after all, it takes a community to overcome the challenges that await in this new life journey.
“You’ve got to be comfortable with being vulnerable.”
Roy hates to hear himself say this, but if anything, he believes there is no better time than now to have a spinal cord injury. Compared to when he injured himself in 2006, the amount of information and resources that are available now is just astonishing.
“Then think about what it was like in the early 90s… there was no talk about it until the man himself, Superman, Christopher Reeve had one, and started to shed light on this issue that affects a quarter of a million people a year.”
Let’s face it, a spinal cord injury sucks and they change your life irrevocably. So having access to as many resources, information and help as possible makes life a lot easier.
In fact, that is Roy’s number one tip for those who are newly injured – be open to everything, and utilise technology and the internet as much as possible to inspire yourself.
“Look up videos, and watch what people have accomplished. You’re gonna be like, ‘pfft it’s not that bad, my life can still exist.”
Now 13 years on from his injury, Roy is loving life and is paying things forward in the best way possible. At the time of his injury Roy worked for a non-profit organisation where he coached skiing. After his injury, they set up an umbrella fund for him, named ‘Roy’s recovery fund’ which funded the costs of his living and medical expenses for at least two years, meaning Roy could concentrate fully on making a good recovery.
In response, Roy established High Fives Foundation in 2009, a non-profit organisation which instead of healthcare provides ‘human care’. The foundation does for others living with spinal cord injury essentially what the ‘Roy’s recovery fund’ did for him; helps to fund healing costs, living costs, or whatever it is they need to get them through their recovery. Since it began, High Fives has helped 219 individuals and veterans from 32 states across America, and also individuals in Canada too.
For people who were athletes prior to being injured, that loss or identity change can have a massive impact on a person’s sense of self. So Roy and his team help re-introduce (or introduce for the first time) the newly injured person to sport. This is the best way, he believes, to start creating the bonds that make up your ohana.
”Surround yourself with good people – this allows you to create an ohana that’s not connected by blood, but something deeper - love for one another.Roy TuscanyHigh Fives Founder
“We need to reopen those lines of communication, reopening that community that was once so important to you. And there’s so many way to adapt sport from mountain biking, to rock climbing, skiing and snowboarding.”
High Fives puts on adaptive camps where it gathers together a group of athletes who have reached a good point in their recovery for a couple of days to partake in sports and let bonds grow.
They also have their own facility in California which contains different components of healing, such as personal training and phsycial therapy, all under one roof. Individuals are able to use this space for free.
Outside of High Fives, Roy is a keen public speaker and loves sharing a story or two with other people. He also tries to surf as much as he can. But right now, most of all, he is enjoying being the owner of his first house, decorating and settling in.
“I love life – I’m happy where I am right now, I’m in a positive space.”
As far as essential skills go, Roy asserts that all wheelchair users should be able to do a wheelie. His number one life hack would be getting a template of your footplate and cutting it out on a surf board stomp pad. This will stop your feet from slipping but also allow for a bit more cushioning between your feet and the footplate.
It was High Five’s 10 year anniversary on February 19, and Roy’s current focus is continually growing the organisation to serve the community through sports. He loves being able to show off all the things that are possible in the adaptive world. While the organisation is North American based, Roy has ambitions to one day be able to offer services to all corners of the globe.
For more about Roy, he is super active on social media, and posts a lot of videos on his VIMEO and YouTube channels. Or simply check out his website: https://highfivesfoundation.org/ for more.
If you’d rather listen than read…
Listen to the Podcast with Roy Tuscany now.