Soon after a spinal cord injury many of us start getting that sneaking suspicion that we’re missing out on life. Whether it’s an event we can’t attend because it not accessible or an activity we can’t do because of our paralysis, they begin to stack up. Joanna Bonilla, paralyzed by Lupus, put a temporary halt to that growing list – if just for one night – when she attended SPINALpedia’s Adaptive Indoor Skydiving Event at iFLY in Loudon, Virginia last month.
“I was excited because I was finally able to do something on my bucket list. Excited because the dare devil in me was like FINALLY! Finally, that I was able to do something I wanted to do before my injury.” A resident of Springfield, Virginia, which is not far from iFLY, Joanna signed up for our event when she saw our online flier.
She also missed her old adventurous life pre-paralysis. “Before I was VERY Adventurous. I was always looking into doing something fun while on vacation. I had never done skydiving before my injury but it was on my bucket list.” And the entire experience at iFLY met her expectations and then some. “The experience made me feel FREE and even more confident that I can do anything. At first, I didn’t know what to expect from the whole experience.”
“As I looked at other fliers, I was nervous and excited. Nervous please I didn’t want to get hurt, I didn’t want to chicken out and what if I get sick.” One of her favorite parts of the day were the “Friendships with other participants that are experiencing the same as I. Facing the same fears, the same day to day struggles and sharing information with one another.”
The psychological benefits of the wind tunnel in particular, which makes the indoor skydiving experience possible, were especially awesome to Joanna. “After I got over the shock feeling and I took in a deep breathe. I was able to relax and loved the feeling of feeling FREE. I was allowed to have FUN and let go. In my wheelchair, I over analyze everything (“Can I get in that way?,” “Is it wheelchair friendly?,” “Will I be able to do this?”).
And she credits her dedicated workout regimen for her smooth sailing in the indoor skies. “My life started to turn around when I started to become physically active. That happened 3 years ago when I met Devon Palermo Founder of DPI Adaptive Gym. I loved going to the gym before my injury. It’s hard going to a regular gym because it feels as if everyone is seeing how you will work out.”
“At DPI, I was able to get my confidence back little by little. I am now stronger than I’ve ever been. I was able to do IFLY and every other adaptive activity because of DPI. She has also tried rock climbing and adaptive skiing in Colorado since becoming injured, but this 34 year old loves how easy it is to just get in some indoor skydiving in her own hometown.
And she recommends indoor skydiving in a big way. “I would absolutely recommend this to wheelchair users. You feel free, the feeling of feeling Capable of being ‘normal’ but in a different way. I am able to fly but with extra people helping me #specialtreatment. Even if someone were to say ‘But i am scared’… I would say do it because that’s what makes it worth it!”