Skydiving with a SCI

Les Wright, who has a C5/C6 spinal cord injury, fulfilled a life-long dream this year when he completed a skydive

Les Wright, from Killarney, is on a mission to complete a list of life-long dreams since he turned 60 recently and in August this year, he ticked one of those dreams off his list when he completed a skydive from 12,000ft.

Les, who has two daughters Ciara and Grainne with his wife Trish, decided to do the skydive with his daughter Grainne and his wife’s nephew Jason, and they all took the plunge together at the Irish Parachute Club in Offaly.

He explained, “When I turned 60 last December it kind of flicked a switch and I decided I needed to do some of the things I wanted to do before I got too much older. Life passes in the blink of an eye and the older I get, the more I know I won’t be able to do the physical side of things as much.”

Les, who sustained a C5/C6 spinal cord injury (SCI) in September 1982 following a car crash, said that he did have some reservations initially about doing the skydive as he has a high level SCI, but he did his research and found a sky diving company that he trusted.

“I looked into it and found the Irish Parachute Club. I rang up and spoke to them about doing the skydive and they told me that they had two experienced sky divers (also known as tandem masters) who had jumped with a good few disabled people previously. I thought right, if they have done it with people before then that gives me the confidence to give it a bash.”

On the day of the skydive, Les explained that he had no fear on the journey up in the plane but at the last minute, when they opened the airplane door, his nerves kicked in a little bit.

“I was sitting at the door and looking out and I thought ‘Oh my God what am I doing here?!’ and then they opened the door and lifted my legs out and I thought ‘Oh right, well this is it now.’ The next thing, my tandem master counted down 1,2,3 go and we were out.

“It doesn’t feel like your falling at first because you’re above the clouds so you can’t see the ground. You’re falling towards the clouds which is really cool. Then you go through the cloud layer and then shortly after that he pulled the shoot and the next thing you’re sailing. It’s so quiet and peaceful when you’re coming down and I studied the countryside. My tandem master let me have a go at the toggles as best I could so I was flying our parachute at one stage. You pull one side and the shoot goes down and then you pull the other side and it turns the other way. It was a bit difficult because I couldn’t get hold of it properly but it was a great experience. Then we just kept sailing down and before I knew it we had landed.”

Les explained that the only part he felt a little bit worried about was landing because he couldn’t hold his legs up when they were coming towards the ground. His tandem master knew how to get around this though.

“He taped my feet together at the ankles so they wouldn’t go flying everywhere so that was a good idea. As we were coming in, my legs were dangling below me and I thought ‘Oh no, I’m going to break my legs here!’ But somehow my toes dug into the turf and my tandem master just flipped it around so I ended up on top of him. So it was a perfect landing.”

Les said he would recommend doing a skydive to anyone thinking of doing it as he had such a good time.

“It was an amazing experience. The Irish Parachute Club have really good people working there. They were excellent with me. I can’t say enough good things about them. They were good fun, we had a bit of a laugh and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.”

Les also kindly did the skydive in aid of Spinal Injuries Ireland and raised over €2,000 which will go towards families and people living with SCIs in Ireland.

For more information on the Irish Parachute Club see www.skydive.ie or call Spinal Injuries Ireland for more information on 01 6532180.