Life in the tennis world is often swaddled in a seductive kind of tranquility. Usually enjoyed in the sun, typically at comfortable venues, tennis is a lifetime sport that keeps members of its community eternally youthful – in body and mind, heart and spirit. Of the many who think they can defy life’s tragedies, tennis players surely rank high on the list.
And then there come those moments when the world deals a different hand.
Yesterday afternoon came word that a longstanding friend I’ve known from tennis had suffered an accident so out of the realm of understanding that it first glance it appeared to be one of those online scams. Soon enough, sadly, it became clear that it wasn’t.
Mike Trabert, a longstanding tennis instructor from Salt Lake City, had been on a heli-ski trip in eastern Russia. But there came a helicopter malfunction. Then, a crash. No one was killed, but Mike broke his neck – and likely two ribs.
I’ve known Mike for 45 years, back to our adolescence when we were campers at a tennis camp run by his father, Hall of Famer Tony Trabert. Later we would work there as counselors, teaching children for hours, squeezing in doubles matches when time permitted. We’ve maintained contact, be it when Mike was director of tennis at Pebble Beach (Mike often hitting with the likes of Jimmy Connors), to dining in New York with his sister Brooke and wife Dinny in New York shortly after Tony was inducted into the US Open Court of Champions. Integrity, engagement, friends and family have been the watchwords of Mike’s life.
Now 60 years old, Mike has been extremely fit his entire life – besides tennis, also competing in triathlons. Surely that will help his recovery.
But the matter at hand is less one of recovery and more one of return. The Trabert family is seeking to arrange specialized medical transport for Mike to return to the United States – the safest possible way to transfer a man with a broken neck and the need for medical supervision. As Dinny said in an article that appeared in yesterday’s Deseret News, “The conditions of the hospital there are kind of scary there, and with the communication problems, it's just been really hard… We just need to get him home. We need to get him on American soil and being cared for by American doctors.”
The estimated cost of the transportation is in the neighborhood of $110,000 – a fee not covered by insurance. To raise that money, the Traberts have launched a fundraising effort:
By 10:00 a.m. this Friday morning, more than $80,000 had been raised – no doubt testimony to the depth of affection and respect so many of us feel for Mike.
(photo caption – from right to left: Mike Trabert, Joel Drucker and Mike’s sister, Brooke -- September ’14 in New York City, hours after Tony Trabert had been inducted into the US Open Court of Champions)