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I hold a United States Parachute Association (USPA) “D-license,” as well as my PRO Rating, Coach Rating, Tandem Instructional Rating, perform as a civilian and military free fall instructor, and a wingsuit instructor and coach. I currently have over 2,500 civilian and military freefall parachute jumps. I am also an FAA Senior Parachute Rigger.
I have been an avid BASE jumper since 2005 and have traveled the world over jumping in Mexico, Switzerland, France, Italy, Austria, Mexico, Canada, China, Malaysia and the U.S. I have over 900 BASE jumps from buildings, antennas, bridges, cliffs, and even dams and nuclear cooling towers.
I am a former member of the United States Army Special Operations Command parachute demonstration team “The Black Daggers,” where I performed as a demonstration jumper, parachute rigger and master of ceremonies at air shows, sporting events and festivals in front of more than 50,000 spectators. I hold P3 and M2 ratings with the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA) and have enjoyed paragliding and speedflying and speedriding for nearly a decade. I have been fortunate enough to work closely with my home mountain’s ski patrol, ownership, management and National Forest Service to develop, implement and manage one of North America’s only speedflying programs at a ski resort.
Last, but certainly not least, I am married to my beautiful and talented wife, Dani. She is a long-distance road and trail runner, avid book reader and professional goofball. She has a goal to run a long-distance race in all 50 states, which I enjoy being a part of whether in a logistical or moral support role. We enjoy sharing the most amazing of adventures and the laziest of days alike. Together with our son Cody and two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Vegas and Denali, we seek out new friends, new experiences and new memories.
WHY I SUPPORT TEAM WENDY
Now that I have all the formalities and bragging out of the way, I wanted to share a bit about why Team Wendy and its mission are so important to me. I doubt I have to speak much about the proliferation of awareness and knowledge about brain injuries today. It’s in news headlines and professional journals seemingly everywhere. But they aren’t a new injury that only became an issue in recent times. And I will posit that no one else is as dedicated or passionate about putting forth the research and developing a safe and proven product than Team Wendy (see two of their many articles here and here).
Furthermore, this research and passion for innovation and protection across a broad spectrum of activities and professions was spurred by an experience similar to my own (see video here).
In January 2015, my family and I were skiing on an unusually warm January day at our home mountain, Crystal Mountain, Wash. We were enjoying the January corn snow and bright sun. Looking forward to the rest of our long, holiday weekend, we were lapping the mountain and high-fiving the day away.
Early afternoon, we got off my wife’s favorite lift and turned our tips down the hill. I let Dani lead the way with our son nipping at my heels. After three turns off the lift, Dani caught the edge of her downhill ski and went headfirst into the snow, her hands out in front of her in an attempt to catch herself. Her hands hit the snow, followed by the left temple area of her head, which was protected by a helmet.
I skied below her, pulled her skis around so that they were beneath her, exited my skis and began talking to her. She was verbally responsive for a few seconds and then went unconscious. A ski patroller was on the lift above us and asked if we needed help, and I acknowledged we did. I got Dani out of her skis, supported her head and neck and rolled her onto her back. Four or five ski patrollers were on the scene within about 3-5 minutes and began packaging her for a toboggan ride to patrol base operations. I gathered up her skis and our son and met them there.
After about an hour and 45 minutes, Dani gained consciousness after a severe series of seizures. The call was made to life flight her to the hospital for further care. I went through all the phone calls and logistical processes to ensure that others were informed and that our son could be cared for in the interim, as I had no idea what to expect.
The long and the short of it is that after another 72 hours of countless seizures, spinal taps, EEGs, CT scans and then another 18-months of follow up tests, we still do not know what happened, what was causing the very specific right focal tonic-clonic seizures, or what, if any, long-term effects they might have.
Dani is fine. She still skis, runs long-distance road and trail races, skydives and holds down a high responsibility position in human resources. However, it’s always in the back of my mind that one small bump in just the right way in just the right part of her head could trigger another incident like this one.
I never gave much thought to head safety before that day. I just looked at helmets as some clunky thing to wear because I was told to or was expected to.
Now, I see them in a completely different light. We all should.
By Zach Carbo
@zach_carbo on Instagram