Marlena Katene, 25, Burleigh Heads, Qld
M￼y best mate, Bert, knows me better than anyone.
Presenting me with a skydive voucher for my 21st birthday, he made a prediction.
‘You’ll be hooked,’ he said. As usual, my bestie was spot on!
Jumping from 14,000 feet above Byron Bay was exhilarating. That day, an adrenaline junkie was born.
Last year, five skydives in, I wanted a new adventure.
Surfing the web, I was enthralled watching Peter Bonser become the world’s first quadriplegic person to base jump in tandem!
It’s where you parachute off a fixed structure or cliff.
I want to do that! I thought excitedly.
So I contacted the other base jumper, Peter’s best friend, Sean Chuma.
Can someone with cerebral palsy do this too? I asked, desperately hoping.
Unlike Peter, I have zero control of my body. Cerebral palsy affects my movement and means I’m in a wheelchair. I’m also non-verbal, communicating through a special keyboard.
I don’t want to stand in the way of anyone’s dreams, Sean answered, inviting me to his base jump school in the US.
But having recently been to America, I couldn’t afford to go again. Then one day Sean had an offer.
If you can get to Malaysia next week, we can jump off the KL Tower!
Oh yeah! I thought, booking budget tickets.
My excitement grew as we ascended the 421 metre structure. But as Sean walked us closer to the edge, my confidence faltered.
Strapped to his front, nothing stood between me and the drop. There was no backing out now!
‘Three, two, one...’ Sean counted, then launched us into the air.
I felt on top of the world.
I’d become the world’s first person with cerebral palsy to base jump! After a nerve-racking few seconds the parachute opened. What a rush!
I want to fly again! I thought back on the ground.
And I will. My disability doesn’t define me. As far as I’m concerned, the sky’s not the limit. There are footprints on the moon aren’t there?
To see more of Marlena, visit youtube.com/theaacjournalist
Originally published in that's life! Issue 44, 2016.