I used to be a avid skydiver. Back before I had a husband and children, my passion was indeed jumping out perfectly good airplanes. Though I do love land activities, I will admit to often missing the feeling of flying.
I recently came across my old log book where I diligently tracked the details of every jump. I took the plunge 157 times. This is a mere drop in the bucket compared to my friends with wings who literally jumped thousands of times.
My log book is hard to decipher. It seems I spoke a different language as a skydiver. I read entries that said, "Launched a round. Rotating molars - 4 points! Yee-haw!" and, "Meat Missile! Wahoo!" While those cause me to search in the furthest reaches of my memory to remember what I possible meant, I also read entries that brought me right back to the moment. Jump 107 detailed, "Adrenaline rush! Opened at 4000'. Could see for miles! Very alert. Very intense. Very fun." This was my first night jump. I remember that intense feeling of jumping into blackness. My senses were on hyper-alert.
And, then, there was Jump 51. The infamous jump. The log simply states, "Good jump - bad landing. To the ER." I will preface this with saying that most skydiving accidents are skydiver error. I am no exception. My gear worked perfectly. I, however, malfunctioned. At an elevation where I should have been committed to my landing, I second guessed myself and drastically changed my landing pattern.
I remember the seconds before impact. I clearly thought, "This is going to hurt." And hurt it did. With the wind to my back instead of my face I hit the ground at approximately 25 miles per hour. I remember having my hands out in front of me while weeds whacked my face as I dug a shallow trench in the landing field. Once the motion stopped, I literally jump to my feet and shouted, "I'm alive!" This was immediately followed by my bending over in utter agony.
I was told that I would forget the pain of childbirth. I have to say, nope. Not so much. The pain I felt on that day - June 6, 1994 - was also one that stays with me. I think I recall it because it still nags me. My pregnancies and stress have found me gripping my back and breathing in some gorilla form of Lamaze.
After the "stumble," a friend took me to the ER where we were told to wait amongst people feeling a tad under-the-weather and kids with runny noses. After over an hour of impossible pain, which was not relived by sitting or standing, I approached the triage nurse.
"Please," I implored. "How much longer is my wait?" My words came out in gasping bits.
The nurse, looking bored beyond comprehension, replied, "Well, it will be awhile. Tell me, how would you describe your pain."
I looked at her and chopped out, "Excruciating!"
I don't know whether she sensed the truth in my voice or feared I was about to come unraveled, but moments later I found myself laying on a gurney getting x-rays. After the x-rays, I lay on that gurney curled up as the doctors talked in hushed tones. A woman came by sweeping the area. She looked at me and said, "Hold on." She came back with a pillow and a nurse with a vial of the good stuff. I thanked that woman profusely before I floated into the clouds on a psychedelic journey.
After that, my biggest concern was that the paramedics who came to transfer me to a larger hospital were not attractive. Weren't all paramedics attractive? I may have voiced this out loud. Whether I did or not, I found I wasn't concerned that I had fractured my back. I wasn't concerned that I had come dangerously close to severing my spinal column. I rattled off the number to my parents' location. They were out of town for the day...no worries!
The next few days was spent in the hospital followed by numerous doctor appointments. I was fitted with a brace that fit pretty well under my clothes. And, I was on the mend. I saw a neurologist because of the location and nature of my injury. He warned me to never skydive again. Three months later, I sent him an 8x10 glossy of my first jump after the accident with a note thanking him for helping me keep my wings.
I hung up my wings a couple years later. I felt a nagging that I couldn't shake. I decided to try something on land and signed up for a marathon. Since then, running has been my passion. But, I still look up at night and know I once flew the skies with creatures just like me. That gregarious bunch always had my back and will forever have my friendship.