Advertisement

High School Football Player, 15, Paralyzed After Snowboarding Accident

“His doctor has been doing spine surgeries for 20 years, and he told us that this is the worst case he has ever seen,” the athlete's stepmom tells PEOPLE

<p>Courtesy of Blake Mendenhall</p> Blake Mendenhall

Courtesy of Blake Mendenhall

Blake Mendenhall

It was the call every parent dreads.

Sharelle Mendenhall’s 15-year-old stepson Blake had been in a snowboarding accident, and no one knew the extent of his injuries.

While they waited for more details, Sharelle, who lives in Las Vegas, headed to social media.

“I just typed the words, ‘we need prayers right now,’ she tells PEOPLE in an interview from Blake's bedside. “And then, just floods of people started to pray.”

The teen — who plays football and soccer — had been enjoying a day on the slopes with his friends at the Northstar Resort in North Lake Tahoe, Calif., when the snowboard he was riding hit an edge, careening him into a tree. Minutes later, Blake was life flighted to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, Nevada.

<p>Courtesy of Blake Mendenhall</p>

Courtesy of Blake Mendenhall

Related: Woman, 35, Becomes Partially Paralyzed After Getting Botox Injections for Her Migraines: 'Horrifying and Scary' (Exclusive)

“The second call we received was from the surgeon telling us Blake had multiple spine fractures,” remembers Sharelle, who was speaking at a church conference when she received the news. “At the time, they told us that it was very serious, and they had to go in to do the surgery immediately. They couldn’t wait for us to get there. So, he didn't have a single parent there.”

“His doctor has been doing spine surgeries for 20 years, and he told us that this is the worst case he has ever seen,” says Sharelle, a former Miss California who currently serves as Mrs. Nevada American 2023. “There were fractures from the T4 all the way down. His spinal cord was completely separated between T7 and T8. His full spine is displaced.”

<p>Courtesy of Blake Mendenhall</p> Blake Mendenhall's spinal separation

Courtesy of Blake Mendenhall

Blake Mendenhall's spinal separation

Related: Michael Strahan’s Daughter Isabella Says She’s in 'So Much Pain' After Second Brain Surgery: 'I Was Screaming'

These massive injuries have left Blake, who lives in Napa Valley, Calif., paralyzed from the waist down, a harsh reality for a teenager known for his love of sports.

“He is the hardest working person I know,” says Sharelle. “This kid gets up at 5AM and rides his bike to the gym to work out before he goes to school. He made the football team as a freshman. He was the kicker, and he didn't miss one field goal. He also was on the soccer team. And he just recently found out he made the high school golf team.”

<p>Courtesy of Blake Mendenhall</p> Blake and his family

Courtesy of Blake Mendenhall

Blake and his family

Aafter spending multiple hours in surgery, Blake awoke to his family surrounding him, including his father, Sharelle’s husband Adam Mendenhall, as well as his mom Tasha Abri and his stepdad Aaron Warnock.

“There was this moment where we all sat down and we're like, ‘Okay, he's being strong, so now we need to be strong,” says Sharelle. “He does have mobility of his arms, so that is a massive blessing. There was no brain injury either, so that too is a blessing.”

<p>Courtesy of Blake Mendenhall</p> Blake Mendenhall with his cousins Garrett (left) and Dom Brumley

Courtesy of Blake Mendenhall

Blake Mendenhall with his cousins Garrett (left) and Dom Brumley

Nevertheless, the road to recovery will be long, with doctors saying that Blake is not yet ready to be be safely transferred to the Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Colorado, where he will learn how to adjust to his new reality.

“He still has chest tubes in because he has a punctured lung,” explains Sharelle. “He has multiple broken ribs, so he has a lot of blood and drainage and breathing stuff that they're trying to work with him on.”

Soon, a cork board will be placed by Blake’s side, marking the places across the country and around the world where people are praying for a miracle for the inspiring teen.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

<p>Courtesy of Blake Mendenhall</p> Blake Mendenhall with his dad Adam at Renown Regional Medical Center

Courtesy of Blake Mendenhall

Blake Mendenhall with his dad Adam at Renown Regional Medical Center

And while Blake and his family say they are committed to taking it one day at a time, they say that Blake is one special kid, ready to send a message to the world.

“The best thing about him is his heart,” concludes Sharelle. “Even as he lays in that hospital bed, he talks about finding something you love and working hard at it and never giving up. He says he knows that God's always going to be with you, testing you to be a better man or a better woman. He tells everyone to find something you love to do.”

A GoFundMe has been set up to support the family.

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.