How Skydiving Changed My Life - Tyler Farnham
by Tyler Farnham | A-46902 | Cocoa Beach, Florida
April 2009 was the month my life changed forever. I am a seasoned skydiver who has been jumping for 10 years. I was born and raised a surfer, but when I turned 18, a few buddies and I decided to go skydiving thanks to the movie “Point Break.” After that first jump, I was hooked and wanted more. I immediately got certified so I could jump on my own. The feeling skydiving gives me is like nothing else on this planet: I’m flying like a bird, and once I’m on the ground, I get an enormous rush and can’t help but smile.
My mother was the last person I thought would ever go skydiving. She proved me wrong when she sent me the confirmation email stating that she and her best friend were booked for their first tandems on April 11. At this point, I had roughly 100 jumps. I considered myself an experienced jumper, although I could only jump a couple times a month due to being a full-time lifeguard captain and surfer. However, skydiving was my getaway and has always been very special and important to me. Anytime I got a day off, it was off to the drop zone.
On April 11, I jumped once prior to going up with my mom and her friend. My first jump went perfectly, and I went up for my second on the same load as my mother. On this jump, everything went smoothly—I had a great sit-fly jump—until 4,000 feet, when I went to my belly to deploy. Once I opened, I immediately began violently spinning. Instead of cutting away, I tried to correct the problem for too long and spiraled into the ground with enough force to break both my legs, my right arm in two places, my mandible, both jaw condyles and nine teeth. I also suffered a concussion. I was wearing a full-face helmet, which I believe saved my life. For a long time afterward, I asked myself why I did not just cut away.
When my mother landed, she rushed to my side until I was stabilized and loaded into the helicopter. In the hospital, I was placed in a medically induced coma due to the severe trauma I had sustained. I was in the coma for five days, waking up on my 26th birthday. The doctors were not sure whether I would walk again. I had broken both femurs, and my right femur had shattered outside of my leg, causing the loss of six to eight inches of bone. The doctors placed permanent rods in both legs and one arm, and screws and bolts held my jaw together. After a few weeks in the hospital, I went to rehabilitation centers and underwent multiple surgeries for my legs and my jaw. I was confined to a wheelchair, and my mouth had to be wired shut for two months. Everything I knew was gone. I was scared of what would become of my new life.
When I was discharged from rehab, I was walking with the help of a cane. Slowly, I worked my way up to riding a bike, and through the winter of 2009, I biked to the local pool and swam laps five days a week. By March 2010, I was back to surfing and took a refresher course and got back to skydiving.
After getting back to surfing and skydiving, I realized that I could do anything I set my mind to. A few months later, I passed my basic emergency medical technician exam. I jumped back into school and started plugging away at my associate’s degree. I am now just nine credits shy. I also requalified for lifeguarding by completing a two-mile run and 500-meter swim. My first day back to full duty at the beach, I responded to an unconscious surfer face down in the water. A fellow lifeguard captain and I performed CPR, saving the man’s life and earning a Lifesaving Valor Award. That same summer, I had the opportunity to work with Junior Lifeguards and Surfers for Autism. My life started to fall back in place and has changed drastically. It took my accident to give me a true appreciation for life and the time we all have here on earth. I have given motivational speeches in Florida and have written a book titled, “Reaching Cloud 9.” I am very eager to share my story with anyone and everyone.
The people at the drop zone are like my extended family, and I love them very much. They all took part in saving my life, and I am grateful to still be jumping with them. I truly feel so happy that the outcome of something so tragic could turn so positive and miraculous.