Featured Writer: Blannie Wagner
I am a skydiver. I am a scuba diver, and I am a rock climber. I am a photographer, a dancer, and an actress. I am a daughter, sister, cousin, niece, girlfriend, and best friend. I am 28 years old and I have heart disease.
I made my first skydive on July 5, 2009 through the static line class at Archway Skydiving Center in Vandalia, IL.
It was supposed to be a onetime bucket list adventure. However, on that day, I fell in love with the sky and life was forever changed for me. Just two days later, I was diagnosed with heart disease. For many, this would mean a drastic halt to extreme activities. For me, it just presented a challenge. Quitting skydiving was not an option. I had found my passion, and was not willing to give it up without a fight. I had people tell me that I was crazy for jumping out of an airplane before I was diagnosed with a heart condition. Twice as many people told me I couldn’t skydive with heart disease, or that I shouldn’t. But after a long discussion with my cardiologist, it was decided – I could continue to skydive.
I progressed slowly through the student program at my drop zone, and there were a few times that I almost gave up. I had issues with hypoxia at lower altitudes than normal. I had some rough landings. I had days where I just couldn’t jump. It was discouraging. But somewhere along the way, I told myself that even after a bad landing, or even after being a hypoxic mess, that I could still do this. I’m a skydiver. I love to fly. By letting myself worry about hypoxia, and fear things that I cannot control, I was giving up.
Maybe I can’t keep up with everyone else all the time, but by keeping up at my own pace, by doing things I’ve been told that I cannot do, by following my dreams and stepping around an obstacle that others may view as a wall – I become stronger, more confident, and I grow within myself.
I wanted to inspire other people to follow their dreams. I wanted to encourage people to live their lives to the fullest no matter what obstacles they may be facing. So I started One Jump at a Time, which originally began as a blog about skydiving with heart disease. From there, I teamed up with the American Heart Association and One Jump at a Time quickly turned into a skydiving event to raise money for charity. We raised $1,200.00 just during the first event. It is amazing the things you can accomplish simply by telling yourself that you can do it!
Skydiving helped change my life. It helped me to combine the fearless, courageous part of my personality with my uncertain, scared side. I learned to work through my fear and have faith in myself.
In the last year:
- I made 78 skydives between April of 2011 and today. (I’m at 98 total)
- I got my A License and B License
- I traveled to and jumped at ten different drop zones.
- I went to my first boogie.
- I jumped out of eight different types of airplanes, and a helicopter.
- I made three night jumps
- I flew 15 minutes in a wind tunnel.
- I went from not being able to flat pack, to teaching students how to pro pack.
- I bought my own rig, and paid it off.
- I downsized from a student 230 main, to a PD 190, to a PD 170, to my current Sabre 150.
- I demo’d a Pulse 150. (That landing hurt)
- I landed on my feet a lot, and also crashed in quite a bit.
- I had on target landings, cornfield landings, soybean field landings, a desert landing, and one landing about 2 miles away from the drop zone.
- I became a Skydiving Ambassador for the American Heart Association and started One Jump at a Time.
- I raised $1,200.00 for heart disease awareness and prevention, by skydiving.
And I did it all with a heart condition.
It just goes to show you – even if someone says you can’t do something, maybe you can. And you can even do it 98 times, with style. ;).
You never know what life will throw at you, but I’m here and still surviving and I’m strapped in and ready for the ride.
And I’ll continue to live and love every single minute of it.
“It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.”
Read more from this author at: http://skydivingchick.com/