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Skydiving accident survivor Brad Guy lands on his feet after learning to manage PTSD

In 2013, Brad’s parachute — and the backup — failed. Remarkably, he survived.

While he recovered from the physical injuries, the ramifications for his mental health almost killed him.

“I thought it’d be a quick fix, I thought, ‘Cool, I’ll have the braces off and I’ll be off the drugs and I’ll be back at work and boom, Bob’s your uncle.’ But it wasn’t like that.”

It’s been a slow four years managing depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and night terrors.

Before the fall

Brad describes life before the accident as “perfect”.

He was given a skydiving experience voucher for his 21st birthday, and booked a tandem dive just before the voucher expired.

“We rock up to the airport and — typical of my family — they’re all there,” Guy says.

“Mum, Dad, my three sisters, my brothers-in-law and nieces and nephews.”

The plane ride as they climbed to altitude was bumpy. He grew nervous as the reality kicked in.

“I’m about to jump towards the ground and leave this plane strapped to some dude I barely know,” Guy explains.

“I’ve got sweaty palms and I’m blabbering.”

The side door of the aircraft opened.

“I’m on the edge of the plane. I’m holding on for dear life,” Guy says.

The instructor had a camera.

“He points it at me and says ‘any last words?’ and I said, ‘yeah, I hope my parachute opens’,” Guy says.

They count down from three and jump.

The moment the parachute failed

“That six of seven seconds of free fall was euphoric,” Guy admits.

“I remember having the biggest smile on my face. I just felt amazing, so liberating, literally nothing holding you back.”

But euphoria quickly turned to terror.

“I feel this thrust but it didn’t feel as strong as I anticipated. I notice the parachute is out, but it’s stuck,” he says.

“That’s when we start spinning, violently. Spiralling, like we’re in a washing machine. I was starting to get dizzy and I looked up at Bill and said, ‘what’s happening?’ He was just grunting and it looked like he was trying to manoeuvre the parachute to open. I was nearly falling out of my harness.

“I eventually look up again and I see two parachutes, a yellow one and a white one and they’re tangled with each other.”

The chaos continued as they hurtled towards the ground.

He realised his whole family was watching on.

“The first emotion I can remember feeling was guilt; guilt for bringing my family there because I thought I’d brought them there to watch me die,” Guy says.

“I know the minute I hit the ground is the minute that I die. I totally accepted it and I knew that death was coming.”

Guy and his instructor hit a lake on a golf course and lay half-submerged, tangled and unable to move — but they had both survived.

“It felt like the planet had whacked me,” he says.

Meanwhile, his family panicked.

“They’re like ‘bugger this’ and they start running. My entire family run after me to come and find me,” he says.

Guy was taken to hospital with severe injuries: a broken back, torn neck ligaments, cracked ribs and bruising.

“Unfortunately that wasn’t the end of it,” he says.

“I get home and that’s where the next chapter begins. You think things will get easier but it really didn’t.”

Managing mental health

While his back began to heal, Guy’s mental health deteriorated.

“I shut the blinds and closed the door and that was the next four months of my life,” he says.

“Just lying in bed feeling sorry for myself, being depressed, anxious, triggered and traumatised.”

He secluded himself and refused help. He watched YouTube to pass the time.

 

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