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floorlagh

Returning to skydiving after a Traumatic Brain Injury

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Just wondering if there are others who have been through the same-ish thing and might share their story or particularly give some advice. Excuse me if there are obvious resources for what I'm looking for. I'm not on the ball right now and you'll understand why in a minute.

I am in New Zealand on the other side of the world to home and my home DZ. My first 6 months here I never got the opportunity to head to a DZ and jump. Then 2 and a half months ago I had plans to jump on the 8th Feb, and on the 7th Feb I fell off a cliff. It was a small cliff, about 10 metres,  but I went head first and landed straight on my head on the road below. Originally paramedics thought I was unlikely to make it, but here I am! However, amongst the many broken bones, collapsed lung and other injuries, the main one was a nice big Traumatic Brain Injury. It was severe. I had a GCS of 3 at the scene, woke up 3 days later, and spent the next 2+ weeks in a state of Post Traumatic Amnesia, thinking I was 4 years younger, that it was the apocolypse at night, and that my nurses were zombies. 

It was quite recently, so I'm not out of the woods yet, however I have been amazingly lucky in my recovery and I'm not too far off it. I am still occasionally getting the fatigue that comes with a TBI, but only if I try something very strenuous, and it's not that bad, my memory is functioning ok and not holding me back, although not quite 100% yet, I am expected to make a full recovery, and all I want to do is skydive.

Now don't worry, I'm not under the impression that I can right now, and I wouldn't even consider it without my doctors approval, but I'm not far off the full recovery and I'm wondering if anyone has any advice on getting back after something like this for when I can. My memory was at first wiped, and then most of it came back, but things in life I didn't know really well, or that I learned recently, are still gone. The way I am seeing it is that I know as much as you need to, to do a solo. I know everything someone who has completed AFF knows and more. I know how to do a normal dive and the emergency procedures. But some of the things that I have learned over time jumping, from just speaking with experienced people, and having situations happen to people and then discussing it with instructors are likely to have been unlearned. For example methods of dealing with certain very specific situations that I have never been in and hopefully won't be in, but you never know.  

I was considering heading down to the DZ before I can jump even just to get my head back into the sport, or even taking up a canopy course and not jumping, but I just missed one. 

I don't know any skydivers here, and I've never even been to the DZ. If I do head down I will explain my situation to them, but any advice, possible helpful pages for getting that knowledge back, or shared experiences are welcome! Thanks!

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Caveat - I know nothing about traumatic brain injuries.

Head down to the dz.  Spend the day. Watch some loads land. Talk to the chief instructor for a bit and explain your situation, see how they would suggest you proceed once you are ready to jump again. Hang out and talk to other people.  These will be the folks you will be jumping with, never a bad idea to get to know some of them now.  Bring beer. ;-) 

I'm in the US so I don't know what is required for recurrency in NZ, but you will likely get some ground training/re-training and then go up for a jump with an instructor.  So I wouldn't stress what you may have lost all that much; anything important will be covered before you jump.

There are loads of resources online that may help you remember/relearn some things.  Start with this website - not just the forums, but the whole thing.  There is so much good information here. 

If you have questions about things you may not remember and can't talk to anyone local, ask here.  There are quite a few very experienced jumpers on here who can likely give you good answers. 

Hope the recovery continues on the same track and you are back in the air soon!  The sky misses you :)


 

 

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I don't know a whole lot of details about TBIs, and I only know a bit about the guy and his injury, but I met a fellow last year who suffered a TBI while BASE jumping a few years back. 
He recovered well enough to jump again. 

My understanding is that he's on limited disability and mostly retired. So he travels around and jumps. 

PM me your contact info and I can try to put you in touch with him.

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On 4/26/2019 at 2:17 AM, skybytch said:

Caveat - I know nothing about traumatic brain injuries.

Head down to the dz.  Spend the day. Watch some loads land. Talk to the chief instructor for a bit and explain your situation, see how they would suggest you proceed once you are ready to jump again. Hang out and talk to other people.  These will be the folks you will be jumping with, never a bad idea to get to know some of them now.  Bring beer. ;-) 

I'm in the US so I don't know what is required for recurrency in NZ, but you will likely get some ground training/re-training and then go up for a jump with an instructor.  So I wouldn't stress what you may have lost all that much; anything important will be covered before you jump.

There are loads of resources online that may help you remember/relearn some things.  Start with this website - not just the forums, but the whole thing.  There is so much good information here. 

If you have questions about things you may not remember and can't talk to anyone local, ask here.  There are quite a few very experienced jumpers on here who can likely give you good answers. 

Hope the recovery continues on the same track and you are back in the air soon!  The sky misses you :)


 

 

Thank you thank you for your advice! All noted and taken in thanks :)

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I remember reading some stuff by Richard Hammond on his recovery following his big crash a few years ago.  One thing that really struck me was how he said at certain points along his recovery he thought he was doing quite well but then a few months later he would look back on how he was then and think that he really wasn't still right and had failed to appreciate at the time just how far he still had to go.  Don't be in any hurry and be humble in your self-assessments.  They sky will still be there when you are ready.  

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Spoiler

Heya. I had a Traumatic Brain Injury after a motorcycle accident back when I was an A licenced skydiver with only around 25 jumps.

I had a pretty bad motorbike crash and a TBI along with road rash all across my back and the loss of my little finger on the right hand and the other 2 fingers next to that being fused too so a pretty useless hand there now. I was in hospital and placed in an induced coma for the first 2 or 3 days and didn't leave hospital at all for the next 2 months! I had lost a lot of my balance and my short term memory was completely gone and these took a long time to recover fully. I spent a lot of time sleeping and completely lost my sleep pattern so would be up at random hours for an hour or so all day and night long. Don't get me wrong here and it wasn't like I couldn't walk or talk ever, but my short term memory was gone and I would often loose track of events and suggest going to another room in the hospital only to sit down and be bored there 2 min later and want to go back to the same room I have just come from completely forgetting that I was there only 2 minutes ago! My balance meant I often fell over in the first few months especially when walking down stairs.

I left hospital after 2 months and left after that, but I was still noticing improvements in my balance and memory over 2 years later! I obviously had to redo a few jumps with an instructor as it took over a year from my last jump before my back was healed and I could get back into the air.

Since then though I am C licenced in skydiving, wingsuit, speedfly, paraglide, BASE jump, cave, rock climb and practically every other outdoor sport you can imagine so there is no reason to worry about getting back into this. TBI is just a severe injury that can take a while to recover from. Do everything you can to help yourself though and whatever the doctors recommend but you will be fine.

Oh I should also mention that I also managed to break my back speedflying 2 years after my TBI and that didn't stop me either. My gear is all obviously left hand pull now with a modified cutaway handle to make life easier there xD

Good luck with it all and let me know how you get on :D

 

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A few years ago my wife suffered a stroke, and since then I’ve spent a lot of time around others who have suffered strokes and other brain injuries, including TBIs.

The main thing I’d say is that every brain injury is different, and what works and is right for others won’t necessarily be right for you. Just because you find someone who suffered a similar injury and stated jumping again doesn’t mean you can draw any comparisons from their experiences.

You should do a bit of tunnel time and see how that feels, and find out if you have any issues with coordination and bodily awareness. You should also think about the type of canopy that you jump, as you’ll want soft openings so that there’s no risk of exacerbating your brain trauma.

Good luck, and I hope it works out for you.

Pete.

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Hey there! About 6 years go I was hit by a car while on my bike and suffered a TBI. I also had mild anterograde amnesia and experienced dissociative PTSD. Recovery was difficult and very frustrating at times, but in the end I also had quite astonishing results.  This happened to me during finals week at school, so to continue with my education I had to complete the tests. Three months into recovery I decided to audit a summer school class to refresh and re-learn the material. During the course I felt confident in my abilities to retain the information and perform decent enough on the exam to pass. 6mo after the accident is when my exam occurred. The test was passed out and I was ready to go. I opened the page and instantly everything I thought I knew was gone. No where in my mind to be found. Though ever injury is different, I'd be cautious getting into a sport with such high risks so quickly. If an emergency were to occur and you couldn't react fast enough, the consequences could be dire. You think you might be prepared, but this could be a good example of the Dunning-Kruger effect (maybe). Not to mention, if you have a hard landing and hit your head again, it could be very bad. I didn't get into jumping until 5 years after my accident occurred, but I'm happy I didn't rush into anything. Give yourself the time to really heal and process the event. There's a lot that goes on under the surface level emotions with a TBI. The sky will always be there for you, no need to rush. Maybe if you're feeling up to it, try a tandem, see how your mind and body reacts. At a minimum talk to your doctor and wear an impact rated helmet! If you need anymore information feel free to send me a PM and I'd be happy to discuss further. Best of luck to you and wishing a speedy recovery. 

 

Blue skies,

Mason

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