Flying High

Well for once, I am not going to regale all of my hospital appointment over the last couple of weeks. Instead I want to share with you another life changing thing that has happened, this time it is a little more positive than heart conditions, EDS, POTS and MCAD. Yes, I realise I haven’t mentioned POTs or MCAD, (which is mast cell activation disorder) before and I will get on to it another time.

I mentioned at the beginning of the year that I was struggling a little with my own mortality and impact on the world, since diagnosis. So instead of setting New Years Resolutions, I set a plan for the year of 9 things I wanted to achieve. Well I have found out this week, that I am going to achieve one of those 9 things, the biggest of the 9 items. I am going to learn to fly, thanks to the help of the most amazing charity, Flying Scholarships for Disabled People. The reason I go back to the New Year is that this story actually starts there, as it is when I put in my application. From there I was fortunate enough to be part of a small number of people (18), to be selected to attend a selection weekend at RAF Cranwell.

As the time to go to Cranwell drew nearer, I started to get nervous, not surprisingly. However, what I wasn’t expecting was an overwhelming feeling of vulnerability. Other than stays in hospital, I haven’t been away from home for nearly three years, and in that time, I have started to rely on my four walls and my husband. Now I found myself on a journey, on my own and I did something very unexpected and something I don’t do very often - I cried. I started to cry in a toilet in Tescos and I didn’t stop for nearly 24 hours. I cried the entire journey up to Cranwell, then managed to hold it together to get through the guards gate etc. I cried in the toilets next to the room I was supposed to go and meet everyone. If it wasn’t for a wonderful lady taking my arm and chatting to me and gently leading me into that meeting room, I honestly think I would have turned and run. I then managed to hold it together for a little bit and get through meeting people, dinner and a social gathering afterwards. Once back in my room, on my own, guess what I did, yep – I cried.

The next day, was a full-on day, I had an informal interview, a medical, an aircraft assessment, a meeting with the flight instructors, dinner, a flight test and a music quiz. After breakfast I was in the first group up for the informal interview. Well something happened to me that has never happened before in an interview, yes you guessed it, I cried. I sobbed my way through a 45 minute interview, but something else happened – I opened up, I talked about how my life had changed, the impact that becoming suddenly disabled had had on me and my family, the guilt that I felt and I cried. I went back into the main room after my interview and I sat with everyone and I talked openly and I cried, with a group of people who got it because they had all been through the same thing, yes everyone’s story was different but everyone got it. It is an amazing environment to be in. From that moment I started to put myself back together with the love, help and support of everyone else. Our group got the wooden spoon in the music quiz but we had a great time.

The following day was the final interview, mine was scheduled for 12:30 so I had time to reflect before I was up. The interview itself had about 15 of the charities trustees in a room, but with only 4 people asking questions; 2 of whom I had sobbed on the previous day in my informal meeting. Thankfully I managed to talk about the same things, my disability and the effect it had had on my life but this time I didn’t cry. I found the process of the last 24 hours had actually made me stronger.

I received a life changing phone call a few days later, to say that I had been successful and I had been awarded one of 12 scholarships to learn to fly. The news is still sinking in but I am immensely honoured and proud.

The time at Cranwell was incredible and awe inspiring, meeting people that have some of the most incredible stories. There was much that we all had in common, despite having a wide range of abilities and disabilities but the overriding emotion for me was that every single person in that room was a fighter with a positive spirit, not one person let their disability rule their life.

I will now be raising money for FSDP, if you would like to donate please go to the following page.

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