Skydiving in Florida was out of this world AMAZING. I never thought I would jump out of an airplane from 14,000 feet at night – let alone at midnight on new years eve – but I sure did. Exhilarating. Terrifying. Beyond words amazing.
Did I feel invincible after the third night jump and landing my canopy at about 12:20am on January 1st of 2012? Absolutely.
So winter jumps back in St. Louis should be a breeze right? I mean, if you can plunge towards the earth from 14,000 feet in pitch blackness, what’s a freezing cold hop n pop?
Yeah not so much.
This girl forgot about the heart condition, threw caution to the wind, and got hypoxic on the 4th jump of the day at 5,000 feet.
I realized something was wrong when I went to do my routine handle check on jump run. Slightly light headed but not alarmingly so, I started my checks. Backwards. Reserve handle? Check! Main cutaway? Check. Throw out… Where’s my right hand? I can’t feel it all of a sudden!
That’s when I realized my hand had locked up. It was like my joints froze solid when I bent my fingers. Everything was all tingly. So I pried my fingers apart, shot an alarming glance at my jump master, and wiggled my fingers on my left hand- and got the same result. Total finger and wrist lock down.
At this moment I hear ” DOOR!” – usually the best sound on the planet… And I respond with, “get out and go – I’m riding the plane down” trying to convey the problem by waving my hands and attempting to wiggle my fingers, with tears in my eyes and my head swimming – looking like I’m having a panic attack.
Did I know it was hypoxia? No way! I thought I was stroking out the entire plane ride down, as the dizziness increased and every joint that I moved locked up on me.
I had enough sense to ask the pilot to radio down to manifest that a jumper was riding the plane down so those on the ground looking for three canopies didn’t freak out at the sight of only two; and I exited the plane on the ground with tears on my cheeks and my head down. Ego in check. Big time. And disappointed to boot. I was really looking forward to that 4th jump of the day, and perfecting that wonderful diving double flip exit that I almost had down to an art 😉

Yes it was only 5,000 feet.
But I learned hypoxia can most definitely kick in at 5,000 feet – when you havent eaten or drank any water all day, when you’ve been smoking, when it’s 15 degrees at altitude, oh and when your heart valve is leaking. Lesson learned – eat, drink water, stay warm, do not smoke, and check the pulse ox in between jumps. I can still be bionic woman, I just have to be a little more careful than the average jumper and keep myself in check in situations where it normally wouldn’t be a concern.
Yes, I plan on jumping again this month. In the cold. Keeping an eye out for signs of hypoxia.
And if I can’t jump, I can’t jump. Although I’d rather take the quick way down at 120mph, I’ve tackled one more fear this season – I’m a little less afraid to ride down with the plane 😉 that has to count for something. Maybe I should look into flying lessons in the future!

Oh, and I’ve now got 85 jumps to date. 🙂

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