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African holiday Oct 2005 Part 1

African holiday Oct 2005 Part 2

My Accident in 1995

Are new amputees unrealistic?

Finding the CP you want

MAS Socket Diaries

MAS Test Socket Photo's AUGUST 2005

Building a disabled friendly house

What to do when a new amputee comes home

Glossary of Terms

Can a planned amputee take control of their pain?

Lightning Hazard???

Skydiving with an Amputee

Paragliding with an Amputee

Your Responsibility to your Disability

The Phantom of Pain - by Alistair Plint

Lesley's RBK Story

Contact Ally

 

 

SKYDIVING WITH AN AMPUTEE

Nobody ever woke up on top of a mountain.
Sometimes you have to go climbing.”
Unknown

With untold thanks to my cousin Louise, who dragged me up this particular mountain without questioning my ability, and without hesitation.

I’m still a bit bowled over at how this happened. I need to learn that people actually listen and take me seriously when I say, “wow, gotta do that before I die".

It all came to pass at a family gathering (2003), when one of my cousins came home for a visit for the first time in 10 years, after immigrating to the States. So, there we were….how do families drift apart for so long? I miss her. I miss all of them.

We (or maybe that was just me) were drinking copious amounts of wine, and catching up on all the important stuff that families should really share with each other on a daily basis. You know the story, when people only get together for funerals and weddings. So sad. Anyway, Louise’s baby, Christopher, had mysteriously grown up (where do the years go?) and was a qualified skydiver! Mmmm, my ears pricked up. There was something that I really wanted to do. But of course, how is it possible? I mean, how do you land with one leg? And what if you hurt that leg? So many negative things to consider, and of course, my mother just can’t cope with any added stress to her already wild imaginations of Ally doing anything remotely unusual.

Louise just shook her head. Of course it was possible! The tandem jumpers were so clever, and the landings so gentle, like a feather. Yip, I had seen people land like that. And so the plot was hatched. Ally would jump. But you know how it goes, you say goodbye and “lets do lunch”….and, well, you know the rest.

Yeah right! A phone call from Louise. Done deal, the jump is happening next weekend. Be ready, we are fetching you at the crack of dawn. Actually, that would be BEFORE the crack of dawn. Ungodly hour when the birds are still sleeping, or they should be.

So, I was up at 5.30am (gasp!), legless, breathless and waiting. I think we arrived at the airfield at about 8.00am. There’s a form you fill in where you say “I’m in perfect health” and “I won’t blame you if we plummet to earth” or something along those lines. We decided that I was physically un-impaired (well almost), I met the tandem pilot, and then we waited. We sat at the edge of the airfield and watched the skydivers landing. We watched a good few other tandems come in as well. And still we waited. I have a feeling that they made me wait so long so I could change my mind. And it was daunting, to say the least. The more I watched, the more I realised that something could go wrong. But I doggedly stayed, nothing was going to change my mind.

Eventually, (and reluctantly I thought), at around 4.30pm, it was decided that if we didn’t do this thing now, the weather would be too bad and it would be too late. I wasn’t going to wear a flight suit because of the one-leg story. We bundled into the little plane. Now let me tell you about the plane, because this was probably the most frightening bit of the whole jump! It was small, so very small. And it sounded like it was powered by an old Volkswagen Beetle engine. The seats had all been removed so we could squeeze 4 people into it. Tandem person, Ally, and two other experienced skydivers. I was sitting between Mr Tandem’s legs and it felt like we would climb forever. Up past the 3,500 foot mark where novice skydivers jumped from, up and up. Until we reached 10,000 feet. People often say that they would never be able to skydive because they have a fear of heights. Not so, strangely enough. From so high up, your perception of height is very distorted. You are no longer ‘high’, you’re just ‘up there’.

My biggest fear (apart from the rickety plane, and that fear was only realised when we were actually taking off) was landing. It’s all fine and well watching able-bodied skydivers land, but I had slightly different issues. Which Mr Tandem sagely acknowledged, but when I asked him “how?” he said “let’s discuss that when we are out of the plane”. Mmmm, well, no point arguing that or pushing the point. At that stage we were strapped together and almost ready to leap. They gave me one last chance to back out, and then it was time. When the pilot says GO, you have very little time (like a couple of seconds) to get out, or you’ll land way off target.

The guys were very supportive and they all shared the same sense of whacked out humour. I guess you have to be a bit on the bent side to do this. There is nothing natural about throwing yourself out of a perfectly good plane. They asked me if I was a screamer. Huh? No way, not me. Ok then, I had to remember to empty my lungs or I would have a problem catching my breath. No problem. I can do that. I’m asthmatic. Breathing issues don’t scare me.

Pilot says “GO”. And Mr Tandem says “ok, MOVE NOW”. Oops, problem. His instructions were to roll over with him to my left and onto our knees, and then we would both stand on the supporting bar outside of the plane, then let go. In theory. That wouldn’t have been an issue if I had a right leg to actually step out with, or two knees for that matter. Mr Tandem fixes that though. He uses all of his body weight to throw us out the door. Without warning we are tumbling out, way above the clouds…

And we are free falling. And the strong harsh wind catches me by surprise. I can’t breathe. Dammit I can’t breathe. Mental note to self : Never dis a screamer again! It forces the air out of your lungs during these crazy initial seconds of falling. I look up and there is a skydiver with a video camera in front of me. So close I could reach out and touch him. And Mr Tandem pulls the chute open. My head is almost disconnected from my body. And then…ah man, the most awesome silence. We’re floating. I feel suspended in time. I am free, I am omnipotent, I am in awe, I am Ally, master of my universe. And I am incredibly safe.

We discuss landing. The plan is that I will simply lift up my leg, and land on top of Mr Tandem, cushioned in his lap. Yip, that’s definitely do-able. And then the fun starts. We do somersaults and I feel like a kid. So much fun for an adult seems taboo. So much fun for an amputee is hardly spoken about. We are treated like people who have had a bad turn of luck, and now must accept the scraps of life that are thrown to us. No way. Not any more. I realise that this experience is the tip of an iceberg of gimp-fun. Yeeeeehah!

The landing was fine. Absolutely fine. For me anyway. When I watch the video of Ally’s First Jump, I can see the look of relief on Mr Tandem’s face as we finally reach terra firma. And I don’t realise yet that I am going to spend the next few months on the biggest natural high I have ever experienced in my life!

I am free, I am omnipotent, I am Ally, Master of my Universe.

With thanks to Louise, Mark and Nicholas who made it possible.

COOL LINKS

Chronic Pain Chronic pain management by Dr Mitchell

Disability sport in South Africa DISSA

THE ANGRY GIMP Awesome must read site!

Marco Du Plooy My Pretoria based prosthetist

Sleeve Art by Fred's Legs

Employment Guidelines from SA Dept of Labour for PWD's & employers

Amputee Resource - Al Pike CP

MAS Socket - information

Fly SA - Paragliding

Jam Ally Entertainment - where Ally works

Eric Morse - Para-sport photographer & friend (Canada)