Spring into action!February 24, 2017
Paul Heaney’s story
This May – six days after my 72nd birthday – I’ll be taking a huge leap out of my comfort zone by completing Take to the Skies, a parachute jump for the North West Air Ambulance Charity.
It began when Ben, a North West Air Ambulance Charity volunteer, gave a speech at our Civil Service Pensioners’ Alliance meeting. I was bowled over by his enthusiasm and passion for the cause. He explained that every year the charity takes off on over 2,000 urgent missions, providing patients with rapid access to critical care when they need it most. It was shocking to discover that such an essential service receives no mainstream funding. A few weeks prior to the event, I recalled having seen a North West Air Ambulance Charity helicopter whilst out running. The aircraft rose out of the sand dunes near my home in Formby and I remarked on its amazing ability to reach the patient, despite being so far from a main road.
Ben showed us a video of a skydive he had completed in aid of the charity, and asked whether anybody would be keen to do the same – at which point the room fell silent and people began to shrink down in their seats! But I raised my hand. What if I needed to be airlifted one day? I felt a responsibility to help out in any way I could.
The skydive will be the culmination of a personal challenge I have set myself over two decades. I have been a runner since I can remember but, after being diagnosed with cancer in 1991, I was forced to cut back on all physical activity due to constant tiredness from the treatment. Despite making a full recovery, shortly afterwards I became extremely unwell again – an illness which required four operations in just nine months. Running was the light at the end of the tunnel and I managed to make it through the tough times, eventually taking up sport again in my 50s.
In 2004 I was walking up a ridge on Blencathra in the Lake District when I froze with panic; for some reason my body would not let me continue and I had to retreat down the mountain. Since that day, I have made it my mission to conquer my fears so have been taking part in numerous extreme sports to ensure I can one day return to the same spot and overcome it! So far I have completed ghyll scrambling, abseiling, rock climbing, the Via Ferrata at Honister, a zip wire and white water rafting (to name a few). I believe that if I can jump out of a plane, nothing will be able to stop me climbing that ridge.
It was so easy to sign up. I spoke to the North West Air Ambulance Charity’s fundraising team over the phone and they sent me a registration form which I completed and returned by post. I set up a simple page on JustGiving.com which directly links to the charity, ensuring that any money is donated straight to them.
I may have had some strange looks when telling people about the skydive, but I can’t wait to take off and complete my challenge! Best of all, I’ll be helping the North West Air Ambulance Charity’s helicopters to take off on many more lifesaving missions to come.”
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