Updated: Oct 7, 2019
Looking back and reflecting, I have a hard time believing it was 5 years ago today. Both freshly divorced, my mom and I decided to go indoor skydiving while I visited Seattle for her birthday - because we could! We were the adventurous, fun, independent type of newly divorced women. *obviously*
I've actually never spoken out about my accident on social media - guess it only took 5 years...before I share this story I need to be clear:
1) yes, I tried to sue
2) no - it didn't work
3) yes - it's unfair, but I'm just happy to be alive
It was our first time Indoor Skydiving and *like the rule followers we are* we watched the instructional safety video closely and took detailed mental notes. We would go in the tunnel twice and during the second flight, the instructor would ask us if we wanted to take a "high flight". Much different than the 3 - 6 feet above the net where we start, during a high flight the instructor would escort us to the top of the tunnel, somewhere above 20 feet, to chill out for the remainder of the 60 seconds. After watching the video, we were given single-use-type plastic eye visors & helmets *unlike the full eye visor helmets the instructors had* to wear for our two, 60-second indoor flying adventures.
And boy did I fly...
Fearless. I remember going into the iFly wind tunnel having no fear.
In fact, I wanted to show my Mom how much fun it could be. *I couldn't tell if it was the wind blowing her facial expression into a frown or if she just wasn't having a good time, but I was there to make it all okay, either way,* The instructor was close to my side, signaling what I should do with my body to float horizontally above the netting. Arms spread out like a flying squirrel-superhero hybrid *no capes!*, I was doing it! The instructor then signaled to me that I should decrease the angle of my legs. Unfortunately, doing so made me a human parachute. I caught the wind and shot straight up to the top of the tunnel in my own inadvertent solo high flight. I don't remember much from that day, and some knowledge came back to me over the years, but I do remember laughing. I laughed at the top of the tunnel *over 20 feet in the air* until I realized that, in the safety video, they never said how to get down from a high flight because that was the instructor's job...the instructor who had not yet *and would never actually* come up to get me. I became less jovial instantly and waited, hovering at the top for what was probably only a few seconds before it happened. Now, I don't know why this happened because I can't remember, but most likely out of basic human instinct to protect myself *or rapid onset panic* I curled up into a ball, my tucked body becoming a large projectile plummeting downward - fast.
Falling from over 20 feet, I found the bottom of the tunnel quickly, landing face-first against its plexiglass siding & safety net simultaneously. Like a pinball bouncing around the machine after being whacked by a flipper, I floated chaotically around the base of the tunnel. To keep myself from flying back up again, I instinctively & without thought *that I can recall* reach out and grabbed onto the safety net. This indeed kept me from flying back up the tunnel, but it also made my body flop around like an air-dancing tube man outside the Jeep dealership on Main. When they finally got their shit somewhat together, the iFly employees turned off the turbine fan and, with no wind holding me up in my handstand, I fell awkwardly into the safety net - hands already bleeding from holding on so tight.
I opened my eyes - it hurt to do so. From an above perspective, not quite in my own body, I saw shadow shapes of two men standing over me *asking me if I was okay, apparently*. I was positive that I had just died in front of my mother. Head pounding with pain and fucking mortified by the thought of what my poor mother just witnessed, I was suddenly yanked back into my body as they hurriedly pulled me up by my arms and walked me out of the tunnel. They then sat me straight up on a bench until I *having no control of my body and suffering from a severe blow to the head* fell over. My poor mother took over at that point, frantically trying to stop them from making things worse and making sure I stayed alive. Lying on the ground, groggy as shit & incoherent as fuck, someone put a phone up to my ear - an employee who wanted to make sure I *the injured one* was the person requesting medical help so that iFly couldn't be held liable or at fault even in that capacity.
I don't remember much of what happened the rest of the day. At first, all I could keep repeating was that my face really hurt. The rest of my memories are blurry & half-muted. My mom, almost needing an ambulance herself, in shock from witnessing such a hideously surreal event. Me, not knowing where I was, but trying to explain that I knew I didn't live wherever we were. Me also, proposing marriage to a male EMT after telling him he looked like Ryan Gosling. Being strapped to a board & carried down a ridiculously tall, steep flight of stairs. Being wheeled through the hospital on my back hearing murmurs in and out of consciousness:
"What happened to her?"
"Was it a car accident?"
"Patient appears to be severely beaten."
I also recall the nurse navigating my wheely-bed asking if my eyelashes were fake and being wowed by the fact that they weren't. 3 different mascaras was my secret back then, I shared with her *tho it probably came out as incoherent slurred babbling*
Apparently the hospital tried getting the recorded footage of my accident *you know, the video we paid for of the whole experience as a part of our expensive flying package* so they could better understand what the hell they were dealing with, but somehow in the hour since I'd arrived at the hospital, my video files were *quite conveniently for iFly* lost - never to be recovered. Being the first accident of its kind anyone there had dealt with, and without any visual references for them to go off of, they continued testing me for 6 hours. *without pain meds mind you, just in case I needed to go into emergency brain or spinal surgery* Interestingly, in all my scans and shit they never found my nose stud. *and trust me, they were looking for it to make sure shit wasn't lodged somewhere it shouldn't be* This means my flesh & blood on a metal stud *band name?* was flying around in the tunnel with other people. That's right - they continued to run people through the wind tunnel without even windexing my face print off the glass first.
When I hit the side of the tunnel and safety net at the same time, what was happening is that my philtrum *space between nose and mouth* made contact with the safety net while my nose & rest of upper face smashed against the plexiglass siding. If I had made contact an inch lower than my philtrum, it would have broken my teeth which I then would have choked on to death at that angle. If I had collided with the glass an inch higher, it would have smashed my nose bones into small-ass pieces that *again at that speed & angle* would have flown back into my brain, killing me. I call it lucky now, but it didn't feel like it for years. I ended up with post-concussion syndrome which lasted over 6 months, multiple scars from safety net lacerations on my face, and a surgery a few years ago to correct everything inside my face it had fucked up & shifted around - not to mention a significant neck dent and the ability to bend my neck completely backward. *best goddamn party trick ever until they told me not to do that anymore or I might not wake up...* Do I happen to now have multiple chronic illnesses, more than half possibly triggered by physical trauma? You bet your deductive ass I do.
When the medical bills started stacking up, I thought lawyering up would be the solution. Long story short, it didn't go well. Among other things, the lawyers didn't understand why there were no pictures of me in the hospital or during my time of recovery. Due to hardly being conscious in the ER and the deep depression & post-concussion syndrome that followed, pictures were not a priority. A lack of photo evidence didn't help my case, but I refuse to apologize for being human. It took me weeks just to be able to look at myself in the mirror, and months before I was willing to take a picture of myself again.
For years I struggled with having scars on my face. My boyfriend at the time *before he dumped me during recovery because my life was "too crazy" for him* said he'd tell our kids about how "mommy used to be pretty". But regardless of what he or anyone else thinks, the scars represent the fact that I can survive whatever life throws at me - even a wall to the face. #resilientasfuck The lack of justice in the whole thing still makes me mad sometimes, but insecurities regarding my scars are non-existent. In fact, I've chosen to honor my scars with adornment - a septum ring that helps remind me that somehow, I'm alive today. I proudly & humbly wear that fact, front & center, on my face at all times.