Tag Archives: indoor skydiving all-abilities

Joanna Finally Crosses Off a Fun Goal Post-Injury

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!”

SCI Superstar: Jessika Kattah De la Torre

Jessika Kattah De la Torre is one woman on wheels you’ll never forget, but it’s not because she uses a wheelchair. With a personality so big it eclipses a room, this Floridanative loves life and is passionate about everything she does. Health issues however have followed this fierce woman since she was a teenager. A spinal cord injury is just one of the health issues she’s had to fight through.

What we love about Jessika is that she hasn’t let these issues stop her from having the passion for life she’s always had. Always a huge fitness fanatic, she’s still one till this day. She’s also found new passions since her injury, from the fun – indoor skydiving – to the serious – spinal cord injury research advocacy. Read more about Jessika’s ongoing journey below.

Why She’s Fearless

At the age of 14, doctors found a benign lipoma tumor on her spine. Fortunately, they were able to remove it and she was tumorfree, without paralysis, for 12 years. At the age of 26 however, the tumor returned returned, and this time she became paralyzed after she underwent another surgery to remove it. Although after a few months in rehab she was able to walk out of the hospital using a walker, the tumor returned again. She is currently a full-time wheelchair user with a T2 incomplete injury.

As one can imagine, the ups and downs of having a tumor can be taxing, but this former “gym rat” is tough. She now has two passions – raising awareness for spinal cord injury research and adaptive sports. It began when Jessika signed up for Red Bull’s first Wings for Life World Run in 2014. She has participated in this awareness event since it’s inception and is one of their official Ambassadors.

She’s also discovered adaptive fitness parks that are around the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida-area where she lives. She loves making videos showing how to use these parks from a wheelchair. “I never give up,” she says and you can especially see this in her videos.

Jessica, now 31, has also discovered the freedom of adaptive SCUBA since her injury, as well as adapted surfing and indoor skydiving with iFLY Ft. Lauderdale. She can be credited for helping spread awareness of indoor skydiving for wheelchair-users throughout Florida.

What’s Next

Most recently Jessika decided to switch gears. She met another paraplegic after her injury, Rey, and they fell in love. An adorable love story, Reinaldo and Jessika share their adventures together on her Youtube channel here using the hashtag – #ItsThatWheelKindofLove.

They share everything from how they travel together, like packing two manual wheelchairs in the back seat of a car, to their adventures around Florida, whether they’re surfing, going on a day-trip to Saint Augustine or to a friend’s wedding. They even went to Spain just a few months ago and made several videos on international travel. We can’t wait to see what they record next.

Jessika also speaks about her injury, spreading awareness on the importance spinal cord injury research whenever she can. She is a true soldier in the SCI army and we are grateful for all of the goodness she’s infusing into the community.

How do you find a new passion after a SCI?

Jessika’s official site

Follow Jessika on Instagram

Watch Videos of Jessika

#ItsThatWheelKindOfLove – Episode 5 – Adaptive Surfing

iFly – Fort Lauderdale Indoor Skydiving All Abilities Night

Jessika speaking at the International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals

Woman On A Roll To Find Cure For Spinal Cord Injuries – CBSMiami

Adaptive Fitness Trail at Vista View Park in Davie, Florida