Rachel Coffey-Brittain has raised more than £1,100 for the MS Trust by taking part in a sponsored skydive as part of our Jump in June campaign. As our skydiving month draws to a close, Rachel tells us about her experience and how her own MS diagnosis led her to try something new.
I first thought this would be a good idea in 2012 when I saw the ‘Jump In June’ adverts in the MS Trust’s newsletter, Open Door. However, I didn’t see my consultant to sign the medical form for the skydive and my fatigue was bad, so the idea was temporarily shelved. January 2013 came round, I started taking LDN, my fatigue was improving and I remembered to take a medical form to my consultant appointment in February. With the whole adventure still seeming a long way away I signed up.
I started fundraising online and I was amazed at how quickly I reached the minimum amount needed. I followed the MS Trust’s advice and kept upping my sponsorship target. I was featured in my son’s school’s newsletter; I also did an assembly at school for MS Awareness Week and plugged it some more. The local hairdressers had a sponsor form, as did the kids’ schools, my mum and my old work place.
It was soon apparent there was no chickening out!
The big day
On Sunday 9 June, the big day arrived. The 6am start was difficult as my usual morning routine is a leisurely coming-round and some reading in bed! But, we had to be at the ‘Drop Zone’ in Bridlington for 8.30am, an hour and a half’s drive. We made it, husband, Zap, and kids Gaia (14) and Merigen (7) in tow for support.
After a week of clear blue skies in Leeds the sky was a disappointing shade of grey/white but the Skydive GB team there were optimistic that it should clear in the afternoon. We made ourselves at home in the clubhouse. I met the ‘stranger’ (Alec) who was going to save my life by pulling a cord at the right time and I had time to look at the plane and relax with the other ‘fun’ jumpers who were hoping for the sky to clear too. I was also given the essential talk through the procedure, the kit and the safety instructions.
Fortunately the place had great comfy sofas so I could get some rest as sure enough, after they had done a test flight to check out the cloud cover, it was decided it was safe to go and so my usual rest time was abandoned. The sun had appeared!
So, it was on to the important stuff: trying on the jump suit and getting kitted up. No going back now! Fortunately everyone at Bridlington was really friendly and the atmosphere was relaxed so I actually felt calmer than I’d felt anticipating it before the day!
I had to give a short interview for the camera before the jump, but my head wasn’t quite in the right place for it and I’ve since thought of what I should have said. Ho hum… They were good and got me a chair to sit on while waiting, without me even asking, and then it was time to stagger to the plane! Alec offered me a hand for balance as walking in the harness is not all that easy – a bit cowboy style! I even forgot to say proper goodbyes to Zap and Gaia – Merigen had dived in for a hug before I set off – but I was confident I’d see them again soon.
It was very cosy in the plane, six of us piled in in order of jumping. No scope for feeling self-conscious as I was strapped very tightly on Alec’s lap! But the atmosphere was relaxed, the view fantastic. We were the last out. The cameraman was hanging on the side of the door for us to come out, time for a paparazzi shot and then we were out and falling. I was disorientated for a while, then the stabilising chute was up and it was time to find the camera and smile! Not easy at 120mph and you feel that the goggles could fly off any second! My cheeks didn’t feel too wobbly though and I couldn’t stop smiling. An amazing sensation of almost weightlessness and so quiet and beautiful up there.
There was quite a jolt as the chute went up, but then the descent was a bit more leisurely through the clouds. I was glad that Alec could pick out our landing site through the gaps in the clouds and bring us down safely, as we could have been anywhere. The landing was much better than I anticipated and was remarkably smooth. I was then subjected to another interview but you’ll have to watch the video for that!
Sara then had the foresight to bring her Jeep over as I hadn’t considered how I would stagger the 100yds back to the clubhouse. We all needed to clear the area so the plane could land safely. At the clubhouse we had the option to stay until the DVD and photos were done (about 40 minutes) so we did, and Alec presented me with a certificate, just in case I needed paper proof of the day.
All in all it was a great experience and one I would not have had were it not for a diagnosis of MS two years ago. Just to show that some good things can come from potentially bad events in our lives.
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