​Yes Ma’am

Posted by EmpowHer Stories in Life After Paralysis on January 23, 2023 # EmpowHer Stories

Rachel CoreyTwo years ago, I did something uncharacteristic of myself: I set a New Year’s resolution, which involved saying one word: “Yes!” Many opportunities presented themselves, but as someone with a spinal cord injury, I had to consider details like accessibility, bathroom access, travel logistics, and what equipment was needed. Feeling overwhelmed, I would often just say no. I resolved to banish “No” from my vocabulary and instead say “Yes” to offers and work out the details later. It was scary, but it led to many great adventures, including surfing, handcycling 112 miles, tree climbing, traveling to Texas for a unique PT experience, and attending two Nordic ski camps, then competing in a race (having only skied twice before). However, the most memorable experience was skydiving.

Approaching my 40th birthday, two friends asked me if I would like to go skydiving. Jumping out of a plane elicited feelings of sheer terror, but my answer was “yes!” The only detail I was given was I would be jumping with an experienced jumper named Rio.

Wheeling into the building, a few jumpers were taking off their harnesses, having survived their jumps. One lady had a stunned look on her face. When asked about her experience, she stated it was scary, but didn’t elaborate further. Just then, I was presented with a lengthy waiver that listed death and serious injury as consequences of skydiving. As I began to question my resolution to say “yes” to invitations, Rio appeared with a calming presence and explained that the best course of action would be duct-taping my paralyzed legs to his and attaching my harness higher up on his body to allow him to have greater control. My friends then assisted me to stand as crew members maneuvered me into the harness. My life was now reliant on a few straps and a stranger!

A few moments later, I was laying in an airplane that felt like a tin can. Rio, who was scrunched up behind me, began fastening my harness to his as the plane took off. Despite my initial moments of terror, I felt relatively calm until the door of the plane opened. A blast of cool air hit me along with a sound like an approaching hurricane. Suddenly, my legs were over the edge and there was no turning back. “This is real! Just don’t puke!” I thought. (Puking with air blasting into your face would not be a pleasant experience). Abruptly, I was falling faster than I could have ever imagined. Instinctually, my eyes closed as air rushed over me. The parachute opened just as I was sure I was falling to my death. My eyes opened and a sense of peace enveloped me. The feeling of gliding through the air with everything so small below me was unreal and euphoric. Rio gave me the reins, taught me some tricks and let me take charge of the experience. I didn’t want it to end!

As we approached the ground, I realized how swiftly we were traveling as landmarks zipped past us. Rio guided me to lift my legs and soon we were inches from the ground. Surprisingly, I felt just a gentle thud as we hit the ground. Feeling stunned that I was safely on the ground, I only recall my friends lifting me up and carrying me to my wheelchair. The remainder of the day, I was on cloud nine and the experience still replays in my mind, bringing me waves of happiness.

Since surviving the accident that caused my spinal cord injury, I have experienced more adventures than prior to my accident. I still grieve my old life sometimes and saying yes to all opportunities has not always been seamless. Yet, I have learned, for the most part, things work out. There is still a lot of life to live and sometimes it just involves saying, “yes.”

In 2014, while cycling in preparation for the Ironman World Championship race, Rachel Corey was struck by a car resulting in a spinal cord injury. Since then, Rachel Corey has been on a quest to not only heal herself, but to experience life to its full capacity.

Rachel wrote this blog as a part of the Disability EmpowHer Network and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation collaborative blogging program, which uplifts the voices of women and girls with spinal cord disabilities.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.