Skydiving is a huge part of my life, as is living with heart disease. So I decided to make a blog and share my story. After googling relentlessly – “skydiving with aortic regurgitation” and coming up with nothing, I figured maybe my story will help someone else who might have the same questions that I do. So here goes the first entry – a little about me, and my diagnosis with heart disease.
I made my first skydive on July 5, 2009 through the static line class at Archway Skydiving Center in Vandalia, IL. On that day, I fell in love with the sky, and life was forever changed for me. Just two days later, I was diagnosed with heart disease. For many, this would mean a drastic halt to extreme activities. For me, it just presented a challenge. Quitting skydiving was not an option. I had found my passion, and was not willing to give it up without a fight. So after a long argument with my doctor, it was decided – I could continue to skydive. After all, it hadn’t killed me the first time, so I was probably in the clear 😉
During this time, I shared my experience with my best friend, Chris. I told him about my new adventures, and together we finished making our bucket lists. I shared my triumphs and my fears with him. I was scared of this heart condition. What did it mean? What was my life going to be like, living with this disease? We made plans to skydive together, as he had always wanted to try it.
Chris died suddenly in January of 2010. And with that, my world fell apart. I thought I had failed. If I couldnt help my best friend, if I failed at saving his life, and my own life was doomed, what did I have left? I stopped caring. I treated badly the people I loved most. I treated myself badly. I became negative, sad, and felt infitintely alone. But somehow I managed to keep jumping. And somewhere along the way, I gained back my confidence, my zest for life, and my refusal to give up.
I have made 74 jumps to date.
Skydiving helped change my life. It helped me to combine the fearless, courageous part of my personality with my uncertain, scared side. I learned to work through my fear and have faith in myself.
I decided that I will not just give up. I want a long life. I want to check things off of my bucket list. I want to see the world, get married, have children, and teach them the meaning of unconditional love.
If I have children, I want them to grow up and say – my mother was a skydiver, a scuba diver, a rock climber. A daughter, a sister, niece, cousin, and a wife – a mother, an inspiration, a mentor and a hero. I want to show people that life does not end with heart disease, that it is just beginning. The only thing that heart disease has changed in my life, is that it taught me to apply the knowledge that every day should be lived with a purpose. The knowledge that maybe saving someone’s life isn’t about keeping them breathing, but in helping them see that there is more to life then just breathing. That taking time to make an impact on others, to show someone that they are important, loved, and that they have worth – might be what saving a life is really all about. Maybe life is not about completing the bucket list, but in making each moment, and each experience count. So make amends. Apologize. Make right your wrongs. Love people, unconditionally. Never give up. And know that anything is possible, no matter how impossible it may seem.