A different way to leave a plane – by Helen May
Sometimes I wonder if my brother and I are related. Especially on our 40th birthdays. My brother opted for a family day in London to see a musical. Four years later, I decided I wanted to celebrate by jumping out of an airplane. I was nervous. Who wouldn’t be? That’s part if the fun.
According to the small print “Persons of 40 years and over will be required to produce a British Parachute Association “declaration of fitness” form, stamped and signed by their GP, for their relevant activity.” As the jump was to be the day before my birthday, I thought I was in the clear. Then I did some digging on their website and realized the same form needed to be signed by your GP if you suffer from various medical conditions … including diabetes.
I assumed this would be a formality (with a cost associated) so dropped off the form at my GP’s surgery and called them to check whether they needed anything else. They did: they wanted to see me. So I went the surgery to pay for a lecture from a GP I had never met before about the dangers: the dangers of sky diving and the dangers of uncontrolled diabetes (but I do not have uncontrolled diabetes).
Eventually, I was told “it’s ok for you. You get all the fun whilst I take the responsibility.” I considered suggesting the Doc joined me but thought my flippancies might put him off signing the consent form. His parting words were telling me to make sure I had a high blood sugar before I jumped and had dextrose with me during the jump.
After a failed attempt due to the weather on the weekend of my birthday, I did it: I jumped out of an airplane with a man strapped to my back (it was a tandem jump and he was the one who knew what he was doing). I had had a briefing on the ground, but no words on the ground can prepare you for the experience of stepping out of a flying plane.
Initially, it was scary doing something so unnatural but the feeling of air whizzing past as soon as we stepped out was exhilarating. On the video, it looks as if I may have said a naughty word as we left the plane! We travelled very fast until the ‘chute opened. Then, it was peaceful and calm. My tandem and I had a chat about the views and the flooded fields before we landed smoothly back at the airfield. When I landed, one of the regular sky divers asked if I would do it again. “Of course!” I just wished it lasted a little longer.
I was not able to take anything with me in the plane (nothing hard that could hurt me if I fell on it) so I had no dextrose and I couldn’t check my blood sugars before I jumped. But my diabetes was unaffected by the 90 second experience. I haven’t seen that GP again and I am glad. I am not convinced he understood enough to sign the consent form – I do not think he had any idea about the safety involved with sky diving nor had he taken the time to read my notes on how I manage my diabetes.
OK so sky diving is a little unusual and GPs have a tough task dealing with all sorts of illnesses and people. But it worries me when I need advice from them and realise they do not know about diabetes. For example, when I have jabs for my holidays, I have to remind them to check to see if the drugs will affect my diabetes control. I can’t believe I’m the only person that feels this way. Am I?