As many of my fellow jumpers and social media followers may know, I have a knack for face plant landings. There’s this little thing we learn in the first jump course called a PLF – or Parachute Landing Fall. It’s a technique for landing. If you aren’t going to stick it on your feet, or the landing is going to be rough, you’re supposed to PLF. Sort of like a stop, drop, and roll… or a better description would be drop, roll and stop.
Now as well as I can do it on the ground, or teach it to students, I’ve always had a mental block when it comes to PLF-ing under canopy. I can be hauling ass towards the ground, after the worst spot in the world, backing up under canopy, pulling a downwinder to avoid a tree – thinking in my head the whole time – “PLF PLF PLF” and my landing will still go more like this ” Hand, FACE, Smash”.
I’ve banged up knees, smashed a couple hands, hurt my back… the list goes on a on. But the worst injury today due to failure to PLF on landing? What I refer to now as my one bum arm! And before we go further I want to make something clear – I don’t consider this an injury caused by skydiving. After further review, I consider it an injury caused by stupid. As in, if I had pulled my head out of my ass and PLF’d, I probably wouldn’t have this problem.
During my coach course, I jumped in some bumpy wind. It wasn’t high enough wind to make me back up (I refuse to jump anymore in winds that high. Those landings go more like “OW on my ass and get dragged for 100 feet” which in my opinion, sucks more than Hand, Face, Smash).
As I came in for landing, hit a little crosswind and got blown towards the runway, I corrected it, and I knew I wasn’t going to stand it up. As I threw out my hand in my normal fashion to catch myself- thereby yanking my right brake toggle and making my bounce that much worse – My fully extended arm made contact with the ground and I felt this little “pop” in my shoulder. I rolled (or flopped, depending on what angle you were watching from). It hurt. It burned. But it wasn’t anything I couldn’t shake off – which I did – and got right back up in the air, several times, to finish my evals before heading home at the end of the course.
And honestly, although it was slightly uncomfortable, it didn’t hurt THAT bad…. at the time. I even made quite a few more jumps during the summer – although I noticed a lot of soreness in my shoulder every time I got back on the ground. I figured I tore a muscle. No biggie, right? Wrong!
I knew there was a problem when we started remodeling our house. After a month of trying to paint every room in this big ol’ 4 bedroom house, I had a daily routine. Paint for an hour, take a handful of motrin due to shoulder pain. Muscle through the rest of the day, have to ice shoulder all night long and take more motrin, and whine a lot. In my defense, the pain got so bad that just touching my shoulder felt like jabbing at a bruise with an ice pick. Visualize that? Yeah. Ow.
So I went to an orthopedic surgeon. And low and behold, that little “pop” back in July was my shoulder muscle and rotator cuff ripping apart! A.K.A SLAP tear and torn rotator cuff. A.K.A Huge pain in my ass. Or more literally, my arm.
I’ve tried a month of physical therapy – which included rubbing a towel around on a wall (…yep.), throwing weighted balls through a hoop (or more accurately, at people’s heads – though not on purpose, mind you, I’ve never been good at basketball), and a bunch of other strange exercises meant to strengthen the muscles in my shoulder… to compensate for the one that’s now dangling by a thread (an extreme exaggeration, yes, but that’s how it feels). All that did was make it worse. So here we are.
I have to have surgery to fix it. They will slice open my shoulder, put some plastic screws in there, shave down the bone, remove my bursa, a lot of lovely things which are probably grossing you out enough to consider closing the browser window (oh, just wait til after it’s done and I post pictures!). 6 month recovery time.
Which is fine, it could definitely be a lot worse. However – I’ve been in a sling to “rest” my right arm, and I’m virtually useless in a sling! I can’t pull my hair back, cut my food… I can’t even feed myself without my food winding up in my lap, on the floor and in my hair. The dog loves this. She is the only one who will be sublimely happy with this arrangement, and will probably gain a few pounds while happily slurping my meals off the floor.
And then there is sleeping. I can’t sleep on my back. And that’s not even pure stubbornness – I literally cannot sleep on my back. With my heart condition, it causes breathing issues when I sleep on my back. So there’s that little gem of a problem to deal with while my arm is in a sling strapped around my stomach.
My initial response was “Screw it, I can wait 6 month’s until later this fall”. I mean come on, I’ve got a drop zone to open this summer! So I took my bum arm for a test drive in the wind tunnel earlier this month. I’ve done an hour of tunnel time before with no problem. This time, it felt like my arm was being ripped from its socket after the first 15 minutes (and this was during 3 minute rotations). It gave me a fairly good idea of what skydiving will be like this year if I don’t fix this damn thing. And if I land on it again, I’ll really toast it.
I am one stubborn woman, so there is a chance I will still try and wait this thing out a bit longer and see just how far I can push it before I let them slice and dice me. I like being in the air, I like putting my own hair in a pony tail, I like having my food make it from plate to mouth without hitting the floor. And yes, I realize those are all pretty silly things to worry about when you stop and consider other injuries I could be dealing with. But as I said earlier, I tend to whine a bit. OK fine, in this case A LOT. You don’t have to live with me, it is just an honest, whiny blog post after all 😉