I was an adrenaline junkie until I had a severe stroke in 2006. Last year, when I heard about a guy who was raising money to take people with disabilities to a wind tunnel, I was very curious. I didn't think that flying in a wind tunnel was possible for someone as immobile as I am, but I contacted him to see what he thought I could do. He assured me it was possible, and he asked me a bunch of questions to get to know me. Then he explained how flying in the tunnel would work and calmed my nerves.
When I finally met Gabe Sierra at the tunnel, he was kind, patient and very understanding. He went above and beyond to help make my tunnel flight a wonderful experience. He took the time to see how my arms and legs moved and figure out what I could and couldn't do, which helped show me what to expect. He and two of his instructor buddies got me in the tunnel. The other guys held on to me while Gabe stayed in front of me to keep watch of my face; since you can't talk in the tunnel, he was there to make sure I was doing alright. I had an awesome time, and it was the best workout I've had in years. Holding my head up and my limbs in the correct position gave me a full body workout. It also gave me a very good stretch. Being in a wheelchair messes with posture, and the wind pushed my arms out and stretched out my chest.
I had so much fun, and they made me feel so safe that I definitely wanted to do it again! Then I asked Gabe about skydiving. Would I be able to go actual skydiving? He got in contact with someone at Skydive Spaceland–Dallas in Whitewright, Texas, where he skydives, to help make it happen for me! At the drop zone, he again went above and beyond to help make the experience amazing. He stayed right there with me the entire time as I received instruction and made my tandem jump with James Flaherty. He even came over to check on me in the air! Then he made sure to get to the ground first so he could be there when I landed. It was a dream come true, and he did everything to make it happen.
I cannot say enough about how much of an impact Gabe made on my life through skydiving and tunnel flying. From being an adrenaline junkie to a girl who thought she'd lost that part of her life forever, this opportunity came along and turned that around. Gabe told me, "It might take longer and look different, but you can do what I can do." These experiences helped me believe that I can still live a fun-filled, adventurous life despite my limitations.
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