I know I haven’t posted for months and months. It’s been a crazy busy year. I’ve had more work this year than ever before. Plus, spending time with half of Hoffman Bros. and skydiving.
But, right now, I have a little more time on my hands. Some of you already know the story I’m about to tell, and some of you only know a few of the details. If you’re squeamish, don’t read this.
A couple of weeks ago, my parachute broke my neck. When I deployed, it opened extremely fast, which meant I slowed from 120 MPH to 0 MPH in a second or so. Think rear-ending someone while driving twice the speed limit.
My chin whipped toward my chest. I heard three loud cracks in the back of my neck and I lost feeling and movement in my forearms and hands.
There I wss, 3000 feet above the ground, hanging under a parachute I couldn’t steer and away from the landing area.
Now, I had recently read about an incident in which someone had an opening hard enough to turn him into a quad. He couldn’t steer his parachute, and he landed off the dropzone and had to wait for someone to find him. The first person to reach him was an EMT, which meant that he must have laid there for 15 minutes or so.
My first thought was, This is NOT happening to me. Not in the sense of, I can’t believe it. In the sense of, I won’t let this happen to me. Whatever it took, I was going to make it back to the dropzone.
I used my upper arms to lift my hands and wedge them into my lines (between the front and rear risers, if you know what that means), then I used my upper arms to pull down enough to turn in the direction I needed to go. After a couple of minutes, feeling started to return to my hands, so I was able to unstow the steering lines and use those. But I had zero strength in my triceps, so I couldn’t pull down on the lines all the way, which meant I wouldn’t be able to fully brake on landing.
I kept hearing the voice of half of Hoffman Bros. in my head. Earlier this summer, he’d been briefing me for night jumps, and he’d said, “If you don’t know how high you are, just come in in half brakes.” I kept hearing him say, “Just come in in half brakes.” I had enough strength in my upper arms to get to half-brakes, so I figured I’d get as close to the ground as possible and slide it in.
As I turned on my final approach, I realized I was going to land about 30 feet away from Lug. He’s a long-time instructor who had just jumped with a student. He’s super heads-up, so I knew that all I had to do was get to the ground. He’d see me and know that I needed help.
Which is exactly what happened. I hit the ground (ow) and, about ten seconds later, I heard Lug calling my name. I like Lug lots, anyway, and I cannot tell you how GOOD his voice sounded to me. Imagine someone telling you simultaneously that 1) your IRS audit was cancelled, b) you just won the lottery, and iii) that suspicious Xray belongs to someone else. Knowing that he’d seen me was just that good.
Because it meant that the part of saving my skin that was up to me was over. It was other people’s turn now.