Dave and Amy Steele Flying High for Henshaws

In April this year Henshaws ambassador Dave Steele and his wife Amy took a Fifteen Thousand Ft plunge from an airplane, all in the name of raising funds for Henshaws! Neither of them had ever done anything like it before.

Watch Amy’s skydive and her pre- and post- reaction in the video, and then read about what was really going on in her mind below.

In her own words, Amy shares her experience:

“I had thought about this moment for weeks and weeks, and imagined every scenario and outcome 1000 times in my head; what if the plane stalls… what if I fall out… what if my parachute doesn’t work… what if it breaks… what if I can’t do it… what if I break my leg… what if I forget to do something vital… what if I let people down!

Never once did I think to myself; what if I can do it… what if I make people proud… what if I overcome my demons and get inside the very small plane packed in like sardines… what if my husband watches me jump out?

Driving down the motorway on a very quiet Sunday morning with Dave to the skydive centre, and my stomach feels like I’m on my way to a job interview. We arrive right on time and as we find the check in office, I see the landing area and thoughts are swirling around my head again. I can feel a big cloud coming over me telling me I’m not strong enough to do it. Telling me I won’t get into the plane, that I won’t fly in it and I won’t jump out of it. Outside I’m smiling, but inside I’m screaming. The demons in my head are fighting me, and it’s exhausting trying to shut them up.

As we stand watching the first three planes full of jumpers take off and jump out, my head feels heavy with fear and doubt. Looking up to the sky and then looking at the small rickety looking plane, I start to feel utter dread and feel myself taking lots of deep breaths.

Finally our turn came and we were called for training and to put our suits and harnesses on. The panic was getting worse and the fear I would forget my training was very real to me. As my instructor put on my harness I kept thinking to myself, ‘it’s too loose, it’s too loose!’, although it was so tight it was uncomfortable. Kitted up and waiting for our plane, I keep telling myself all I have to do is step onto the plane and not think any further ahead than that moment. Dave was as calm as anything which made me feel worse because I was worrying for him too.

We walked over to our plane and all around me was a buzz of excitement although I was in my own bubble of fear. Then just as we were heading to get on the plane the instructor called it off as it was too cloudy so we had to wait for the clouds to clear. I just wanted to cry!

Twenty minutes passed and we headed back to the plane. This time we made it on and took our seats. It’s then I realised that there were no seatbelts! No seatbelts!!! Before I could get my breath we were shaking in the plane as the propellers sped up fast enough to take off. As we did I actually thought to myself, ‘what if something happens and I don’t make it?’ Dave was sat at the back of the plane and I didn’t dare look around as I would have lost my composure and panicked. Then I suddenly thought, hang on, I got myself onto the plane and we’re in the air. Strapped very tight to my instructor, he could clearly feel me taking lots of deep breaths as he kept squeezing my shoulders to calm me and telling me I was doing great. I didn’t believe him.

I looked out of the window and we were so high up now the clouds were below us. How was I going to get back down? I knew there was only one answer. I was going to have to somehow put my trust in someone I’d just met and hand over complete control to them to keep me safe. I felt so sick I could barely breathe. Just then, they opened the shutter and two professionals dived straight out and immediately disappeared from view. Next was me and all I could think was… please god don’t let me die. Sounds ridiculous right? But to someone with depression and anxiety it was a perfectly reasonable thought.

Within a few seconds I was hanging over the edge with my instructor, and as much as I wanted to scream, all I kept telling myself was ‘Dave’s watching, don’t let him down’ and that very second we fell out of the plane and started tumbling. Survival mode kicked in and I remembered my training almost on autopilot. I did exactly what I was supposed to do and there I was flying above the clouds like a bird. I felt free. For the first time in my life I felt completely free. Not a single negative thought was in my head, no ifs or buts. I was overcome with emotion as we free fell at 160 miles an hour towards the clouds. It was completely silent and breathtakingly beautiful. Almost like I was floating. The free fall lasted a minute but felt like a lifetime. I had thought of so many past memories in my head in the short time.

Amy during the freefall against a bright blue sky, and her tandem instructor behind her.

As we passed through the clouds and my instructor opened the parachute, we flew back up into the air. As we floated down an extreme calm came over me and I remembered feeling still and numb. I felt like I could see to the end of the earth. In that moment I wanted to just stay there a while in the calm silence with my head completely clear. Before I knew it we were coming onto land and the magnitude of what I had just done dawned on me very quickly! As we hit the floor I started crying and couldn’t stop. My demons didn’t win – I did! I have never felt euphoria like it. I had fought against my own mind and body and won! And my soulmate was there to witness it! I felt as though I could take on the world and win. I felt free! For so long my anxiety has controlled many aspects of my life and dictated to me what I was or wasn’t capable of. Yesterday I stuck two fingers up to my anxiety and I won!

I’m scared of flying, I’m scared of confined spaces, I’m scared of not being in control, and I often have dreams about falling. If anybody out there is reading this and can relate to the feelings, I have shared please know that it may not feel like it at the moment but one day you’ll win too! To my husband Dave Steele, thank you for being my constant, my rock, my inspiration.”

A huge thank you to Amy and Dave for the amazing £750 that they raised for their challenge, and for their ongoing support of Henshaws!

If you’d like to get involved with a Henshaws fundraising event, please have a look at what challenges are on offer below:

Log in or register to download

We can't do it without you

Henshaws rely on voluntary donations; our work just wouldn’t be possible without people like you. Your support empowers local people living with sight loss and a range of other disabilities to increase their independence, achieve their dreams, and go beyond expectations.

Donate now

Deirdra
Deirdra manages all marketing activity across the charity and oversees all communications through the website, email, social media, print & PR.