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Free-falling into terror...

Updated: Mar 28, 2021

I haven't always been afraid of heights, and in fact when I was younger and with less appreciation of risk, I loved climbing trees, abseiling and rock climbing. As with many of us as we get older our perception of risk changes, and I have been afraid of heights for at least 2 decades. Similarly with flying - I used to sleep on landing, but now I feel a steady rising panic starting from when I set foot on the airport tarmac, reaching a crescendo when the plane finally comes to a halt at the end of the flight. Tears on flights are not uncommon, and I have been the recipient of many a (hopefully clean) tissue thrust on me by fellow concerned passengers.

So, of course, I decided I would leap out of a plane and free fall several thousand feet, believing, with no little gullibility, all those people who assured me that it would be the best day of my entire life. No question. The best day EVER. I have subsequently wondered what sort of hallucinogenic drugs they were taking when they leapt out of the plane, as my experience was anything but.....

As with all things colostomy related, my medical questionnaire wasn't accepted without an accompanying form signed by my consultant, and without me first attending the airfield to try out the harness, to make sure the harness didn't rub on the bag. That turned out to be the least of my worries, although I should have guessed that it would not be the best day EVER, when I felt giddy merely standing on the chair and dangling a few feet from the ground as part of the harness test. No matter....I carried on with my plan...

Fast forward to walking towards the tiny little plane, alongside the giant of a man who was my instructor - a former Army serviceman called Billy, although I misheard him pronounce his name as Belly initially, which I thankfully realised before leaping out of a plane attached to him as perhaps he might not have been so disposed to be kind to me had I been shouting "Help me Belly!". As is traditional with me and aeroplanes, I felt the need to ask fellow passengers whether every single creak or shudder was "normal", despite of course being the safest I had ever in fact been on a plane, because I was strapped to a hulking great man with a parachute. No less, as we climbed higher and higher, I could feel my anxiety beginning to sky rocket (geddit), the familiar icy fingers of terror gripping tighter and tighter onto my chest and airwaves. I literally couldn't believe what I was about to do...leap out of a plane FFS!! Stupid woman! What was I thinking?! Naturally, I was sitting directly next to the plane door, first of the tandems to go. The 2 minute warning was given and I began screaming and screaming "fucking hell! fucking hell! fucking hell!", before the plane door opened with a huge whoosh and I froze. The 3 solo jumpers sitting on the floor popped out like ants sucked out by a hoover, I shut my eyes, felt Billy shuffle me (nay, shove me forcibly) towards and out the door. We fell out, and I felt a huge spin before my stomach flipped and I felt the air rushing to my face. I opened my eyes and saw the ground shooting up towards me so fast I couldn't process what was happening. The speed during freefall was unbelievable. I remembered to smile for the camera, as I'd been warned my cheeks would flap about (a generic warning I hope, and not given due to my excessively large cheeks). The resulting video shows me gurning like Wallace all the way down. The parachute shot up and I came shooting back into the air like a cat out of a bag. We began to gently float down, as my heart rate began to slow and I started to look around me. I was HIGH. Very high. Down down we went until Billy started shouting for me to lift my legs, which I raised so high my feet were almost parallel with my sweaty forehead, and we landed with a soft bump onto the grass. My legs were shaking, my hands were sweating and I could barely speak. I had bloody done it! Jumped (ok, pushed) out of a plane at 15,000 feet!!!!! I couldn't believe I had actually done it. Something I always said I'd NEVER do. Well I can safely say I'll never do it again....ever...

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