Falling from 13,000 feet to fight IPF
Mari's amazing skydive in memory of her husband raised over £2000 for people with lung conditions.
I met Les when I was 15. In 1966, aged 19, we were married. We were very happy together.
Then late in 2008 he developed this annoying cough, so we went to the doctor. At first, we thought it was just a chest infection. But then in March 2009 a diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis was given.
By August, Les was on oxygen. A few months later in November, he died.
It was just 8 months after his diagnosis.
Les was everything to me. Losing him was so hard. Pulmonary fibrosis is such an insidious, shockingly cruel condition.
That’s why I decided to start fundraising. If the money can go to research which can help other people, then it’s worthwhile.
Fundraising in memory of Les
The year after Les died, I did the Midland Lung Run. I can’t really run but I did it! Now twice a year I do a coffee day where I sell cakes, any plants I’ve grown, and crafty things I’ve made.
That would have been Les’s 70th birthday, and 7 years since he died. I decided I would do it, and try to raise £700!
'Aren't you afraid?'
No one could give me any reason not to, including my doctor!
People kept asking me, “aren’t you afraid?"
But I wasn't. Sometimes in life, I think we have to think very carefully about what we plan to do – but sometimes I think we just have to say, you know what? I’m just going to do it!
So that’s what I did.
The big day
The first plane went up at 10am. I was watching from the ground. Gosh, I hadn’t realised how high up it was going to be!
20 minutes later it was just this tiny little thing, way high up in the sky – 13,000 feet. Then these little dots appeared, and I realised they were people!
At this point I thought, "oh my gosh, what am I doing?" At 68, I was the oldest person there by far.
But then it was time for me to go and get my flying suit on – and up I went!
My amazing skydive
There was never a point where I felt afraid. It was just beautiful, and incredibly exhilarating. We freefell for 45 seconds, then suddenly I heard a flapping sound and my parachute went out and everything went so quiet. We just drifted down.
As we came towards the ground, I still felt safe. My tandem jump instructor said, ‘get ready for the landing position!’ and we just skidded to a halt.
It was amazing, honestly.
It's all worth it
People ask me what I think Les would have said. I think he would have told me I was bloody mad! But proud of me, like he always was.
He was such an incredibly funny, lovely man. This condition has no respect for anything or anyone. It was so awful to watch him struggle so much.
I set out to raise £700, but I've raised much more than that - at the last count it was over £2000! I know that money I've raised can help other people, and it makes it all so worthwhile.
Support for IPF
We've got support and advice for those who've been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).