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jessicamarie

Skydivers missing upper limbs

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Hey guys,

I know this has been discussed on this board in the past but I would love to connect with any upper limb amputee who jumps solo. Whether that person is on dropzone themselves or if someone knows someone...

I had a great time in Colorado with Tommy (computerdoc on here) and he gave me some helpful ideas to get started.

Now, I want to talk with as many people as possible as I move toward pursuing this goal.

Thanks in advance!

-Jessica

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I don't jump anymore, but I made about 500 jumps after losing my right arm below the elbow. I can probably help a little. Here are some questions to help us all understand your needs:

How much of your residual limb(s) do you have?
Do you use a prosthetic? What type?
What are your skydiving goals?

- Dan G

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Great point, Dan G!

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How much of your residual limb(s) do you have?



My amputation was above the elbow which, I think, makes very big difference in terms of not having my elbow. The tumor originated in my elbow so there was no salvaging that. I estimate about 7 inches below my shoulder. I have full range of motion in that shoulder and a little muscle strength (I wrap an ankle weight around and lift in different directions) but I don't know how useful (if at all) my residual is in steering and especially flaring.

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Do you use a prosthetic? What type?



Not for skydiving. I have a cosmetic prosthesis with a silicone glove painted to match my skin. I wear I to work, going out on a Saturday night, basically anytime I need to look nice. But it's a $20,000 pretty accessory. No functional use.

Everyone I've spoken with who has ever jumped with a prosthesis has lost it at some point. Even if I had a more functional prosthesis made, they're so expensive; I don't want to run that risk. And I've been doing everything with one arm for 12 years; to have to relearn how to use 2 arms would be a learnin curve for me.

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What are your skydiving goals?



My short term goal is to earn my A license. My long-term goal is to pursue freestyle. I may explore other disciplines if and when I'm ready to but for right now, freestyle sings to me. :)

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You're right that the lack of elbow makes a big difference. I still have my elbow, so steering and flaring were not a big deal. There are people who fly their canopies with one arm. You'll have to rig up a system where you have both toggles connected. I think there's actually a YouTube video out there of a guy setting up such a system. One issue that you'll have to address is arm strength. It can take a significant amount of force to pull down both toggles at once. If you go to the gym, make sure you spend some time with the pull-down bar, or a similar machine that lets you pull a weight from above your head toward the floor.

You're also right about losing a prosthesis. I lost my arm on a jump in 2008. I get my prosthetic work from the VA, so it was free, but I think insurance might have a problem with replacing one. I think Mike B. (mx757 here) used to jump with a prosthesis, but didn't use one in his regular life, so it can be done, but if you're not used to using one, you can probably get along without it.

You also need to get together with the DZ you want to go to and talk with their instructors and DZO. There are extra challenges with teaching amputees, and you want to make sure everyone is on the same page. Canopy work is going to be your biggest challenge, and also your biggest danger. The freefall stuff is easy to work out, but once that parachute opens, you're on your own.

You can do this, it'll just take a little more work than it does for an able-bodied person.

- Dan G

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Yes, Mike B used a prosthetic as a below the elbow left arm amputee. I don't think he's jumping any more, as he seems to have focused more on flying planes for fun these days. His rigs were set up as a SOS (I think) system. Single Opening System? I can't remember the correct terms. Instead of two handles - a main cutaway and a reserve pull, you get one handle that does both jobs in one shot.
"Mediocre people don't like high achievers, and high achievers don't like mediocre people." - SIX TIME National Champion coach Nick Saban

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I think SOS is a good idea, especially for a new jumper. I had a dual handle system, but I jumped camera and wanted more flexibility. I ended up hooking my RSL back up after a while, but kept the two handles.

For the OP, an SOS rig is definitely a good idea.

- Dan G

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I am VERY happy to report that I finally swallowed every bit of my anxiety and contacted the DZO of my soon-to-be home DZ Skydive Temple. His response was that he would do everything in his power to get me skydiving!!

The hubs and I met with him today at the DZ. He's pretty much told me the same things you guys have.

SOS rig, definitely. His brother is an arm amputee who was heavily involved with pieces of 8. He's going to start contacting his amputee contacts all over the country tomorrow. He said they may have to have a rig custom built for me.

In the meantime, gotta build that arm strength!! Hit the upper body HARD in the gym. And the suggestion about the pull down machine..BRILLIANT! Like, hello, obviously, right? Anyway, I started modifying my gym routine this week.

And yes, he said it would take longer and be more difficult that a person with two arms and I am completely and totally okay with that. Actually, I like the challenge. I don't think I'd be interested if it wasn't challenging. Sometimes the hardest things are the things most worth doing. And I need the time to build my strength and rearrange my budget to accomodate this new and expensive hobby that I plan to do for the rest of my life.

But, most importantly, he said he and his staff are 100% behind me as I pursue this goal. That just felt great.

Thank you guys so much for you advice and support. I think it gave me the confidence to actually make that call and ask for what I wanted. Since you don't know me well, I'll tell you that I tend to by a little shy and anxious by nature, and saying I wanted to skydive was a TREMENDOUSLY bold step for me!! Interesting how this process continues to help me be more confident in other parts of my life, too. :)

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Awesome. Best of luck to you! I know a couple of people who jump at Temple regularly. One of them is a moderator on here. You'll be in good hands. :)
"Mediocre people don't like high achievers, and high achievers don't like mediocre people." - SIX TIME National Champion coach Nick Saban

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Awesome. Best of luck to you! I know a couple of people who jump at Temple regularly. One of them is a moderator on here. You'll be in good hands. :)



Thank you! Absolutely! I trust Mark (the DZO) and Wendy and everybody else at SD Temple. I feel very fortunate to live close to this DZ. The impression I got from my two tandems there was that the staff are top notch. Mark must have high standards for the people he hires and it shows. Even my apprehensive husband feels better since meeting with Mark. He said if I'm going to do this risky thing, I'm doing it at a place where he has always felt safe to jump (tandems.)

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I really appreciate Skydive Temple, they were very accommodating to my deaf friend and myself. Helped us get our A license.

Good people!

Edit: Forgot to add that I know Mike B personally (he's deaf as well). Nothing wrong doing on his part but I know that on one occasion the grappling hook on his prosthesis got tangled with a fellow bellyflyer's suit sleeve as they docked together. Couldn't shake apart so the bellyflyer opted to deploy with the suit sleeve still twisted in the hook.

Thankfully the sleeve gave away and they all had uneventful deployment and landing.

There's a photo but you'll have to ask Mike.

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You're also right about losing a prosthesis. I lost my arm on a jump in 2008. I get my prosthetic work from the VA, so it was free, but I think insurance might have a problem with replacing one. I think Mike B. (mx757 here) used to jump with a prosthesis, but didn't use one in his regular life, so it can be done, but if you're not used to using one, you can probably get along without it.

yes I have a SOS system I sold my Racer to Tommy (compuerdoc) but still have my other two rigs... I'm out of the sport for awhile now... need lose some weight, and been flying my irplane a lot now too...

yes as Dan G said for a new jumper one arm SOS is the way to go! I know Wendy at skydive Temple...
maybe I'll fly my Cessna down some weekend... I'm in Ft. Worth..

mike

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Edit: Forgot to add that I know Mike B personally (he's deaf as well). Nothing wrong doing on his part but I know that on one occasion the grappling hook on his prosthesis got tangled with a fellow bellyflyer's suit sleeve as they docked together. Couldn't shake apart so the bellyflyer opted to deploy with the suit sleeve still twisted in the hook.

Thankfully the sleeve gave away and they all had uneventful deployment and landing.

There's a photo but you'll have to ask Mike.


yes that happened at Cuba Mo Dec 1984 me & Steve Eggers... had a two way.. Larry Thorne landed on my back causing us to Z every time I was stable steve would upset it and every time steve was stable I'd upset it keeping it Z-ing.. Steve knew I could lip read... I was hooked on sleeve of his throw out arm.... he shook me said " relax" when I get stable I'm going to pull my reserve... soon as he reached for the handle it tore and was free... Gary Peek took the photo... I have it still will have to look for it..

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