You Can Do It!

The One Jump at a Time skydiving event to raise money for the American Heart Association was a success! I am very grateful to everyone who participated and donated money to help me reach – and surpass – my fundraising goal! To date, we have raised $1,150.00 for the American Heart Association.

After dealing with a rough landing and a little bit of hypoxia prior to my set date for jumping, I made the decision to split my jumps up over the weekend instead of trying to do it all in one day. I was still getting over a chest cold and my head wasn’t completely in it like it should have been. By Sunday evening, I had made 6 skydives and reached my goal!

On Friday, I went speeding out to the drop zone after work to try and make the sunset load (did I say speeding?…Sorry, dad!). I hopped on the plane, and exited after another jumper at around 5,500 feet without double checking the spot – like an idiot – and wound up smashing myself in outside of the landing area. In the cornfield. That was the first time that has happened at my home DZ (the cornfield part, not the smashing myself in part). So needless to say, when I woke up the next morning thinking about starting the charity jumps, I had a small bout of pre-jump anxiety that began to pick up along with the wind.

I was not up for anymore corn.

So I chose to do a tandem skydive to start off the day. Easy, right?

Not that day, when my body decided to start getting hypoxic at 6,000 feet.

Hypoxia again? Are you kidding me? This seems to strike at the most random of times. I had just done a full altitude jump in Phoenix and was fine.

This time, I managed to hold it together until full altitude and we made the jump, but I was pretty discouraged when my feet hit the ground.  I debated if I should even try again. I must have sat on that DZ couch for about 3 hours before putting my jumpsuit back on and manifesting myself on a load for another hop n pop.

Checking my pulse ox and heart rate between jumps

As I walked out to the plane I was more nervous than I’d ever been.

I don’t like this hypoxia issue. It’s really hard to control, it’s completely random, and I was terrified it would happen in free fall and really screw me up. As I got on the plane, and we began the climb to altitude, I thought back on a quote that I had read a few weeks ago in Felix Baumgartner’s blog.

“The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it”

At that moment, I realized that I needed to make this jump for ME. I was still focused on jumping for charity and getting the jumps made that weekend, but this jump was going to be for myself.

I needed to  prove to myself that even after a bad landing, even after being a hypoxic mess, that I could still do this. I’m a skydiver. I love to fly. By letting myself worry about hypoxia, and fear things that I cannot control, I was giving up.

I was looking at myself as the sick girl, the one who can’t keep up. What I had failed to see, and what I realize now, is that I was beginning to let this heart condition make me weak, when in reality it should make me stronger.

Maybe I can’t keep up with everyone else all the time, but by keeping up at my own pace, by doing things I’ve been told that I cannot do, by following my dreams and stepping around an obstacle that others may view as a wall – I become stronger, more confident, and I grow within myself.

The only thing stopping me from making more skydives and getting out of that plane was me. It wasn’t the hypoxia, it wasn’t the sinus tachycardia – it was me telling myself that I can’t, or I shouldn’t – when all along, all that I needed was to tell myself that I CAN.

So I jumped.

I landed softly, on target, with a smile.

The next day, I made the rest of my charity jumps – solo. All of my jumps that day ended with perfect, soft, on target landings. No hypoxia, no corn. 🙂

There’s no end to what you can achieve just by simply telling yourself that you can do it.

Success!

“It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.”

*~Blue Skies~*

 Blannie

Right Here, Right Now

“You have within you right now, everything you need to deal with whatever the world can throw at you.”

In five days, I’ll be skydiving to raise money for the American Heart Association.

For the last month, Mother Nature has not been kind to me on my days off of work. It has been either too windy or too cloudy for altitude. This Skydiving Chick is going through intense skydiving withdrawal, although luckily I got to experience a little bit of altitude this weekend…

Clinton, MO at 3,000 feet

I got my altitude fix for about twenty minutes  yesterday when I hopped aboard the citabria for a quick flight around Clinton, MO. This was my very first ride in a small airplane for pleasure – without the intention of jumping out. It was exhilarating. There was something unsettling about being in a small airplane without a rig strapped to my back. I didn’t even have an altimeter on. I had no clue how high we were flying, all I knew was that when he decided to do a fly by, we dove low enough that I looked down thinking, ‘I’d be turning on base right now’… and then I screamed, and I almost peed my pants (but in my defense, I had to pee before takeoff.

Riding in that airplane was a heck of a lot of fun, and it provided a nice distraction from my thoughts – which have been consumed lately by the coming weekend and how I am going to pull off these skydives.

Five jumps in succession may seem like nothing to any regular seasoned jumper, but I’ve never done five skydives in a row. Due to my high heart rate, I am usually exhausted after two or three jumps in one day. I’ve never landed my Sabre multiple times in a row on my feet. So I began to fret…What if I smash myself in on the first jump? I haven’t jumped in a month, I’m rusty – what if I plow myself in and I still have four more jumps to do? What if I get hypoxic again? What if… and then after about 15 excruciating minutes of imagining out loud every negative scenario, a person pointed out to me that I’m only” what-if-ing” about possible negatives. In addition, I was pointlessly worrying about and planning for situations which had not even occurred yet. He said to me “All that matters is today.” And he’s right.

What if I land on my face? Or twist an ankle? What if I nail every single jump and have the time of my life? None of it matters RIGHT NOW.

No matter how much you plan, or fret, or get excited about the future, you can only exist in the present and take control of your life as it unfolds right in front of you, right now. Worrying about my performance on my jumps five days from now isn’t going to make my skydiving skills any better.  Just like worrying over the past won’t make your future any brighter, worrying about the future will only cause a distraction from the present.

Thinking positively today, taking care of myself and those I love – that will make for a better day today.

And that is what matters right here, right now.

Blue Skies!

On March 24th We Will Skydive for Heart Disease!

As many of you may know, I have been working with the American Heart Association in St. Louis, MO. After battling heart disease for a couple of years, I came up with an idea – why not use my passion for skydiving to help spread awareness and raise money to help fight heart disease? After a couple of meetings with the St. Louis chapter of the AHA,   I was given the role of “Skydiving Ambassador” and it became official – This chick will be skydiving for heart disease!

I have set the date for my first round of Charity Skydives. The jumps will be done on March 24th at Fly Free Skydiving in Festus, MO (Weather pending)
 
Below is a link to a donation form for anyone interested in helping!

Our goal is to raise a minimum of $1000 for American Heart Association for heart disease research and education before the St. Louis Heart Walk on May 19th of this year.

100% of all money donated during the skydiving event goes directly to the American Heart Association. None of this money goes towards jump costs, or travel expenses.
It is a taxable donation for charity.

Please email me at skydivingchickAHA@gmail.com  if you have chosen to sponsor so I can put you on a notification list for updates when the jumps have been completed!

Please indicate next to your name on the form if you wish to remain anonymous, as your name will otherwise appear on our team page with your donation amount once it has been processed through the AHA.

Thank you to everyone for all of the support! More details to follow 🙂

Contact me for more information:

Jumping For Heart Disease

Tags

, ,

Join me to help fight heart disease!

I am excited to announce that I have teamed up with the American Heart Association in St. Louis, MO, as a heart disease survivor and skydiver, and taken on a role as a “Skydiving Ambassador”!

In the next few months, I will be making sponsored skydives to raise money for the American Heart Association and help spread awareness for heart disease.

Right now, I am recruiting people to join my support team.

You do not have to donate anything personally to join – by joining the team, you are showing your support, and committing to forward this message along and help spread the word!

For the last two years I have been dealing with a form of valvular heart disease, as well as a bad sinus node in my heart which causes some uncomfortable symptoms. However, I still participate in skydiving, scuba diving, rock climbing, and many other activities without difficulty.

My goal is to spread awareness and help people learn about heart disease, hopefully resulting in early diagnosis and saving lives – and also to show people that you can still live your life and do anything you’ve ever dreamed of – despite being diagnosed with heart disease.

I want you to join me!

Once the details and dates are ironed out for the jumps, I will be sending out forms for anyone interested in sponsoring a day of jumps and committing to a donation for the American Heart Association. I have committed to a minimum of 5 charity jumps at each event, and the minimum donation made per person to the AHA is set at $5 per jump. Sponsors can log on to my website once the jumps are completed and donate their pledged amount per jump to the AHA under the One Jump at A Time team page! All the money goes straight to the AHA – none of the money covers costs of jumps or travel – 100% of the money which you pledge gets paid directly by you to the AHA through our team website.

Join my team in 3 easy steps:
1) Go to My Heartwalk Page ( http://heartwalk.kintera.org/metrostlouis/skydivingchick ) to visit my web page for AHA
2) (If you are viewing on a mobile device, at the bottom of the page make sure to click to view the “non-mobile” or “desktop” site) and Click the “My Team Page” link
3) Click the “Join our Team” link and follow the prompts to register

*If you would like a form to sponsor skydives and help us raise money for AHA, or if you are interested in participating in the skydives to raise money as a fellow jumper or whuffo ground-helper ;), please email me for details at skydivingchickAHA@gmail.com. I also need packers!!*

More details to follow soon!

Blue Skies!

20120209-120635.jpg

Flying Southwest

Tags

,

I don’t often fly commercial.
I haven’t been on a commercial flight in nine years.
This girl prefers inflight doors.
I don’t trust airplanes and would prefer to have a rig strapped to my back and the ability to yell “Door!” and bail out if need be.
But when you’re planning a trip to Dallas and you’re only going to be there for 3 days, well, it makes sense to fly Southwest!

So here I am, on board a huge commercial airliner, with my rig stowed safely in the overhead compartment.
Staring out the window, looking down past the wing at the clouds below, I’m suddenly re-considering that whole high altitude jump thing. Too bad this door wouldn’t open – and attempting to open it would get me a nice ticket to jail. Looks like that rig is staying put!

Going through airport security with my rig was an experience. Here’s this tiny five foot three chick, wearing skinny jeans and high heeled boots… with a skydiving rig on her back.

Threatening? I don’t think so.

However, the security crew begged to differ.
I stood in my socks by the security check point for thirty minutes while they examined my rig, swabbed it, took my altimeter out of my bag, and ran everything through the x-ray about three times. I had the TSA letter and even the x-ray card from the CYPRES manual – which my rigger so thoughtfully provided before my flight – but I might as well have been holding onto a photo of my cat and a page from US Weekly, as they did not even glance at either item.
I had to use a lot of restraint to keep myself from reaching out and slapping the security guy’s hand when it came too close to pulling that reserve handle on two separate occasions.
Thankfully, someone very smart told me to tie a couple of pull up cords loosely around my handle to keep it secure – otherwise there would have been a blown reserve and a very irate skydiving chick at the security check point.
Waiting to board the plane, I got a lot of funny looks, and quite a few people just staring at me.

I also had to stop myself from doing a gear check. This is Southwest Airlines. These are whuffo passengers. This is not a jump plane!

Three people asked me if “that thing on my back” was a parachute – which of course is always followed by “how does it work?” and then immense joy and smiles from me because that gives me an excuse to ramble on about Skydiving – which, clearly, is my favorite topic of conversation! 😉

I was told by the stewardess that I “don’t look like someone who would jump out of an airplane”. I’ve been told that over half a dozen times. This confuses me. What do whuffos think that skydivers look like underneath the helmet and jumpsuit? Little green aliens? Sponge Bob??

Shortly I’ll be landing in Dallas – I’d rather be landing under canopy, but hey – touch down nonetheless!

Hopefully SkyGod is friendly to me on Sunday, skies will be blue and sunny, and then I’ll be on the road to Skydive Dallas to get a couple of warm altitude jumps in!

I absolutely love my life.

Blue Skies!!

One Day At A Time

Two years ago today, my best friend passed away.

Chris gave me the strength and the ambition to pursue my dreams and to follow my heart. He’s the only friend I’ve ever had who truly knew me and knew my heart – it’s an irreplaceable type of friendship.
I wouldn’t be jumping out of airplanes and tackling challenges today if it hadn’t been for Chris.

This week has been crazy for me. It was the end of a relationship and friendship, it was a week of coming to grips with a diagnosis and a different heart condition and a hard decision – which I still haven’t made.

I’ve had an immense outpouring of support, which I am very grateful for. I’ve been shown that when a door closes, another one opens. I’ve shown myself that I can make it on my own no matter what – but that doesn’t make any of this any easier. It’s hard.

Life can be difficult. Any way you look at it – people die, people leave, things are inconsistent and crazy at the times when you need and crave stability.
It’s days like this where I want to cuss everyone and everything. It’s not fair to have the one person who can make things better ripped from your life with no warning. Change can be great or it can be negative. It is all in how you choose to look at it.

So for today, one day at a time, I will choose to believe and have faith. I will choose to see the positive. Everything happens for a reason. And real change never comes without hard decisions and a little heart ache. In the end, pain makes you stronger. I’d like to think that I’m a living example of that. Despite the heart condition, and the daily challenges, I still live my life to the fullest and make it a goal to accomplish everything I’ve ever dreamed of. Despite the fact that my best friend isn’t here in the flesh to help me through all of this – He’s here in every single thing that I do.
When I jump, Chris flies with me. If I cry, he’s by my side. When I tackle a new challenge, I know he’s standing proud beside me.

I’m not a perfect person. But what is perfect, anyway? Everyone has their flaws. Maybe imperfection is what makes us all perfect in our own way.
So I choose to try to live my life the best I can. I choose to take leaps and do things that people may think I’m crazy for doing. After all, life is just one moment of chaos followed by another. And just existing isn’t really living.

Take something you’ve always wanted to do and just do it. Live every single day like it is your last. Take risks and make those hard decisions that you’re scared to make.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear”

For every person who has something negative to say, there’s another person in your life that loves and supports you – someone who will believe in you no matter what.

You never know what life will throw at you, but I’m here and still surviving and I’m strapped in and ready for the ride.
And I’ll continue to live and love every single minute of it.

Cleared For Takeoff! :-)

Tags

, ,

Today is my last day on the CardioNet monitor, and I just had my follow up appointment with my doctor to go over the results of the monitoring.
I finally have a concrete diagnosis and an answer to what is causing my symptoms.
The valvular heart disease is not a factor when it comes to my symptoms. It is there, it exists – but it’s not causing the symptoms or putting me at any sort of risk as this time. I’m still shocked by this. With how bad my symptoms have gotten, I was waiting for the doctor to tell me that the valve needed to come out!

What I have is a problem with super-ventricular tachycardia, or SVT. I have been diagnosed with having “inappropriate sinus tachycardia”

The great news is my heart valve is staying put for the time being. It’s leaky, but it’s stable!

The best news – there’s absolutely no problem with me skydiving, I just have to keep an eye on symptoms. 🙂 This girl is cleared for takeoff!! 🙂

Now the bad news. There are three options for someone with my condition.

Option #1) do nothing. Live with the symptoms and try to tolerate it. Well that sounds like a bad option – I get short of breath just doing laundry, I wake up at night not being able to breathe, and I miss running!

Option #2) High doses of blood pressure meds to slow the heart rate and help eliminate the tachycardia, therefore lessening severity of symptoms. Problem with this option – my blood pressure is on the low-normal end. High doses of blood pressure meds would cause other symptoms for me – such as extreme fatigue, dizziness, and the possibility of fainting. I’m not to keen on the idea of taking medication that puts me at risk of hitting the floor every time I stand up too fast. I’m also not keen on taking medication that’s going to out me at risk of blacking out and fainting, considering that I skydive in my free time. Fainting in free fall would be bad.

Option #3) Catheter Ablation surgery. Now this perked my interest – minimally invasive surgery that can eliminate my issue altogether? Tell me more! And here’s where the bad news comes in. The surgery consists of a three hour long procedure where they basically locate the cells in your heart, within the sinus node, that are misfiring and causing inappropriate tachycardia – and they kill those cells so that they no longer function. However, the surgery only has a 50% success rate. Meaning 50 % of patients wake up and are symptom free, while the other 50% see no results. And worse, you run a 30% risk of having too many cells killed and the sinus node damaged, and then you wake up with a pacemaker.
I’m only 27 years old – i don’t want to have to deal with a pacemaker!!

So I’ve got a lot of research to do and a decision to make.

I’m sick of being sick. I just want to feel healthy and normal. It’s frustrating not having an easy solution to the problem.
That’s life though. And although it’s exhausting and sometimes discouraging feeling sick, being short of breath, and not being able to always keep up with everyone else – living with this has made me stronger and made me who I am. It has driven me to live life passionately, it has given me courage and hopefully my story has helped inspire others.

So although it’d be nice to be “normal”, I wouldn’t change a minute of my life as it is – heart condition and all. 🙂

Hypoxia at 5,000 feet, and other nonsense

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. 🙂

For Christmas, I Got You an Event Monitor!

I just received my CardioNet monitor in the mail. This was a huge surprise, because I wasn’t even expecting to receive a phone call about the monitoring for at least another week.

Merry Christmas, here is your event monitor!

So the last time I was on one of these, it was huge and boxy and required a landline phone connection.
This time? Just two electrodes with wires that you attach to pads on your chest, right and left side, and the actual monitor is as small as a pager – no landline required. Score, right? …. Not so much.
When you hit the ‘record’ button, this thing emits a high pitched, finger-nails-on-a-chalkboard-style modem noise for 30 seconds, and it’s as loud as a freight train. It almost sounds like a small animal being murdered. Seriously.
The first time I pushed the button this morning, I wound up taking the battery out to make the noise stop. I thought they had sent me a defective monitor. But, yes, it is supposed to make that horrid noise when you press record. So basically any time I plan on hitting the button, I need to smother this thing with a pillow, or go to a secluded area. How convenient.
I am also on this monitor 24 hours a day, for 30 days – not 14 as I had originally thought. So I should probably get used to the freight train squealing noise!

I fully intend to gear up in Florida, shove this thing down the front of my jumpsuit or rubber band it to my chest strap, and hit record as I exit the plane. That should make for an interesting report 😉

Somebody Just Fix it Already!

Tags

, ,

My follow up appointment with my cardiologist was not what I expected.

Although my aortic valve is leaking, apparently the doctor does not think that the regurgitation is what is causing my symptoms. Translation? I might have something else in addition to what I already have.
“Yes, you do have a form of valvular heart disease. However, I don’t think this is what is causing your problem.”

Somebody just fix it already!

The plan of action? Fourteen days on a CardioNet monitor – worn 24 hours a day. After the monitor comes off, appointments with a Cardiopulmonary specialist and a Cardioelectrophysiologist will follow.

You have to have a connection to a landline to make daily data uploads with the monitor, so it looks like I won’t be starting the CardioNet monitoring until AFTER Florida. I will have to pay to set up a landline in my house just for this.
Pain. In. The. Ass.

The medical bills are adding up, the bank account is dwindling.

Important questions: Another doctor’s office visit – or another skydive? How many jumps is the echo costing me?!? 😉

This humor is entirely lost on my cardiologist, he looks at me like I am a dumbass. Double dumbass points if I mention altitude! 🙂