Some people have a fear of heights, a fear of death, others a fear of falling, but for this man, they all became reality at once and he’s lucky to be alive today.
Brad Guy brought along his whole family to watch him as he set out for a skydive on August 31, 2013.
As Brad was about to jump, the instructor asked: ‘Any last words?’. ‘Yeah,’ Brad said, ‘I hope my parachute opens’. But it didn’t.
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Brad, and his instructor, Bill, free-fell at 80 kilometres per hour after two parachute malfunctions from 15,000 feet… and somehow survived.
The 25-year-old, from Melbourne, Australia, was left with a broken spine, torn ligaments in his neck, as well as a ‘whole bunch’ of bruising, scratches and ‘a lot of mental health issues’.
Brad, who is a videographer and online comedian, decided to take time away from uploading funny videos to post something really open, honest and completely heartbreaking to listen to as he’s finally coming to terms with what happened to him.
Here, he tells UNILAD his story.
Something about that day didn’t feel quite right. I had a sickly, nervous feeling for hours prior and I wondered if I was just feeling scared about the jump.
Being a self-confessed thrill-seeker, I contemplated these unfamiliar feelings for a while.
Yes, I was an adrenaline-lover and found fear somewhat exciting. But it wasn’t that. It was a completely foreign feeling. Like something was wrong. I couldn’t see a future.
Strange, uneasy, unfamiliar feelings coursed through me but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Brad had been waiting for this day for more than a year. He’d been given a skydiving voucher for his 21 birthday it was now after his 22nd, which he says is ‘typical’ of him, leaving things until the very last minute.
Brad’s family all arrived at the air field to watch his jump – his mum and dad, his three sisters, along with their husbands and children.
Being a family man, it made sense to make a full day out of the jump. We’re a very tight family unit and looked slightly out of place – one large group supporting just one person.
This however was my normal. Surrounded by my large loving family. It also helped me deal with my nerves.
‘Aren’t you nervous?’ they asked.
‘It will be a piece of cake,’ I reassured them, masking those strange insidious feelings that plagued me since the morning.
I played my role well – that’s what I do. I’m Brad! I’m wacky and fun! Skydiving isn’t scary for me! Woo!
Brad boarded the ‘tiny plane’ and was flown up to a height of 15,000 feet. Then, it was time.
He told us:
‘Any last words?’ the instructor asked. ‘Yeah…’ I yelled into the wind. ‘I hope my parachute opens!’ Prophetic last words.
We jumped fearlessly into the void underneath us.
Ecstasy enveloped me. Finally relief from all my fear, doubt was swept away with the wind. We were weightless, suspended in mid-air. A flood of pure, warm adrenaline ran through my body.
The sensation was short-lived however.
Suddenly… I felt the thrust of a parachute release, but not as strong as I anticipated. We didn’t slow down.
Strange. I looked up, a crumpled parachute was flailing in the wind! It had failed to open up and catch the wind. Bill began to swear and scramble. Panic!
Terror started to set in as I hoped and prayed that whatever was causing the issue would stop – now! Please! We began spiralling out of control.
Violently shaking, like being stuck in a washing machine. We spun so rapidly that I even lost my shoe.
Through all the thrusts of spinning, I saw the earth getting closer and closer. It was coming at us fast. I was terrified.
Bill was shouting for me to keep my knees up. I looked up and he was working hard at the parachute. I notice a second parachute above me. Sheer terror floods my entire being.
Disturbingly, the emergency parachute had got caught on the original tangling them both together.
We were falling. Helplessly falling. Right – down – toward – the – ground.
That’s when I realised that I was going to die
Death was right there in front of me and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I knew I was going to hit the earth and simply stop existing. No more ‘me’. Chilling thoughts.
Unfathomable emotions ran through me so fast that I could barely compute what was happening.
‘Are we going to die?’ I screamed to Bill. ‘Probably’, he said.
Brad said to describe this moment is ‘impossible’.
I braced myself for impact, for death. I could see my family in my mind. What must they be witnessing right now. I knew they were about to watch me plunge violently to my death.
Guilt washed over me. Dread. I had brought my whole family here, only to have them watch me die.
We fell to earth but it looked like earth was rising to meet us. The ground moves closer. Close. Too close. Bracing. Holy shit! I’ll die.
He told UNILAD of the horror that consumed his body:
Immediate, unbearable searing pain filled my being. Winded and gasping for air but unable to get any.
I couldn’t feel my legs or move my neck. ‘I’m a paraplegic,’ I thought. I moved my fingers and felt the parachute on top of me.
I threw it off and my fingers met water. We had landed beside a lake. My legs were submerged. I slowly clawed back the ability to get oxygen. Finally, a breath.
I realised that I was on top of Bill, he was blue and unconscious. We were on top of each other but slightly perpendicular so I could see his face. Bill was blue all over and completely motionless.
I immediately thought he was dead. A death I felt responsible for. I’ll never know how the guilt consumed me so soon, but it did. I thought that I had killed Bill.
Of the aftermath, Brad said:
Commotion disrupted the once peaceful golf field – an ambulance, a stretcher, a series of questions.
I heard someone screaming my name – my sister Jess had run all the way from the airport. Screaming at me, telling me that I’d be fine. I start crying even more now.
People only tell you that you’ll be fine when things are really bad. Another voice emerged from a distance – it was Mum.
Blood-curdling screams of ‘I love you’ could be heard over the commotion. I just wanted to give her a hug right then and there.
I’ve heard some stories from my family about what that fateful moment was like. One sister vomited, the others rushed around for help.
Every single member of my family came to my rescue. Surviving a freak accident with a one in a trillion probability might seem lucky, but having a family like mine is even luckier.
After the fall Brad was unable to feel his legs or back and couldn’t move his neck either, he said he was ‘totally immobile’ and only able to look straight up.
Brad had torn the ligaments in his neck and his spine was fractured in multiple places, Bill had also received lower body injuries including broken legs and a broken pelvis.
Hospital was like a montage sequence: torches in the face, needles in the arm, pressure tests all over my body, straps to keep me down, a flurry of medical staff relaying messages and attending to my damaged body.
It was during this time that I experienced my first trigger. I heard a nurse say ‘parachute incident’ and then it hit me!
I fell from the bloody sky. My parachute didn’t open. I came crashing to earth. I was horrified, I couldn’t contain myself.
Tears flooded my face. I was getting questions from every direction and I couldn’t even answer them.
Brad described the next four or five months was the ‘most intense’ period of his life. He locked himself in his room, using morphine and other strong painkillers, while being required to wear a neck and back brace.
It wasn’t just the physical injuries that plagued his life after, his mental health deteriorated massively to the point where he even planned to take his own life.
Depression rearranged my entire mindset. I dramatically transformed into a pessimist with little love for anything. I felt hopeless and doomed. I didn’t recognise myself.
The things that once made me happy just saddened me because I couldn’t enjoy them anymore. It was an internal, solo war. Anyone who has had depression knows that it’s not easy to survive. Depression kills people.
Nightmare disorder was completely foreign to me. I had heard of night terrors, but I never knew it could become a full-blown disorder.
I had such severe night terrors that it affected by ability to sleep. The nightmares were catastrophic. I would have visions of my own skydive death over and over again.
Eventually those nightmares shifted to other forms of death. I’d wake up hysterically screaming and yelling, with no idea where I was.
Mum would have to rush to my aid and comfort me. This disorder riddled me with insomnia, I became agitated around sleep time and rarely slept.
To go from life-of-the-party to the walking dead was soul-destroying. What had I become? I hit an all-time low. I had grown so tired of the self-loathing, fear and agonising pain that I contemplated killing myself.
One more second of living life the way I currently was just didn’t seem worth it. I knew my family and friends would be devastated, but better they have me dead than go another day dealing with my problems.
Brad’s thoughts world inescapably dark, with suicide at the front of his mind:
Being alive meant being a burden. When it came to planning my suicide, I was pretty calculating. Knowing that I had that power and control was quite calming. The best I felt for the longest time.
My plan was pretty simple. It was the perfect plan.
I got up in the middle of the night and walked to the bathroom. Pills were kept behind a mirrored medicine cabinet, as I reached for them I was met with my reflection.
I got a fright from seeing the unrecognisable man staring back at me. I hadn’t looked intently at myself for the longest time. I was dishevelled and gaunt.
I wasn’t Brad Guy at all. I was a stranger to myself.
Although Brad is improving all the time, he is still ‘triggered’ at multiple times during the day, due to post-traumatic stress disorder, he explains what that’s like to live with:
It’s hard to put a number on it, but I’m probably triggered five to six times a day. Sometimes the number can be higher. My triggers are quite varied but pretty obvious: I’m ridiculously jumpy for a start.
I get startled when I hear my phone vibrate. People at work will knock on the door and I’ll jump straight off my chair. I even get a scare when I unexpectedly see my reflection. Getting startled is the most common trigger.
Heights is the big one. I can barely survive on a second story balcony without shaking like jelly. And there’s no way in hell I can look over the edge without feeling vertigo. When I peer over edges, I become dizzy and disoriented. Mainly because I know what it feels like to free-fall from that height. My perspective is very different to the normal person.
The other huge trigger is skydiving (obvious?) I can barely say the word. Even hearing the word cripples me. I become powerless when I see any hint of skydiving. It could be on TV or in a picture, it doesn’t matter the form. When I’m confronted by my past, I can’t help but be transported to the skydive, my skydive that went catastrophically wrong.
Flashbacks are so vivid, it’s like I am actually reliving it. I feel the wind, I hear the parachute flailing, I see the earth getting closer and closer.
My life has changed because of these triggers. Every facet of my life has needed to be lived differently than it was before, whether it’s work or my love life. Drinks on that rooftop bar? Sorry, can’t do it. Want to sit on the window seat of the plane? No way in hell. Feel like seeing that new horror film? Not going to happen.
Finally, Brad delivered his message to anybody suffering mental health issues:
Though my story has been full of extreme trials and trauma, it’s not all bad. Trust me, I’m still a fun guy! I’ve been to hell and back but the pilgrimage has been so worth it. I wake up with such wild enthusiasm for living now. I grab life by the balls and make the most out of the time I have left.
I’ll wear the loud, colourful shirt to work, I’ll pash that cute guy I like, I’ll ask for more aioli on my chips. There’s no time to waste when it comes to living!
The skydive has given me the most precious gift. This new-found energy I have brings me so much joy and I want nothing more than to spread that joy. I’ve never been better!
After years of hardship and struggle, I’m finally at a place where I can talk about my past. But I don’t just want people just to hear a cool story, I want to inspire people. I want people to hear about my history and understand that help is only a conversation away.
We can’t suffer in silence. The more open we are with communicating about our mental health, the better life gets. We need to create an open dialogue for those who suffer, ensure their future is full of possibilities. This will encourage people to speak up and obtain the resources they need.
Yes, talking about your feelings can be distressing, but you’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelette. For me, I chose to confide in my therapist and my family. If I didn’t seek out those avenues of communication, I definitely wouldn’t be here today.
Just know that if you are struggling, it’s not permanent. One day things will get better. It might not be tomorrow. It might be years from now. But they will get better. Hold on to that hope, never let it go. Hope can transform you and you’ll get there. If I can not only survive, but eventually thrive, then you can too. I guarantee it.
What an inspiration.
For advice on depression and how to tackle it, visit your GP or contact the mental health charity, Mind. Please do not suffer in silence.