SCI Superstar: Lonnie Bissionette

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By: Tiffiny | July 2nd, 2015 @ 4:43 pm | SCI Superstars |


LB_official

Lonnie Bissionette is as a stubborn as they come, and we love him for it. The first paraplegic BASE jumper in the world, he is the only paraplegic to BASE jump off of four objects, and the fact that he was paralyzed BASE jumping hasn’t stopped him one bit.

Lonnie is also a pioneer in the brand new sport – para-bobsleigh. He represented Canada earlier this year in the World Cup and made one heck of a showing. To learn more about this adrenaline junkie who’s also dedicated father and an ambassador for the Rick Hansen Foundation, read on.

Why he’s fearless

Long before Lonnie was paralyzed in 2004, he knew BASE jumping was one if his favorite things in the world. He had already been BASE jumping for 10 years before his injury. Lonnie started jumping off of buildings in Toronto, not far from his home in St. Catharine, Ontario, loving every minute of it.  Knowing this was his life’s passion, he began BASE jumping as much as possible.

And it was on his 1100 BASE jump when he was 39 years old, from a renowned bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho, when his injury occurred. He wanted to do something different  for his 1100th jump, so when he jumped from the bridge he went into a somersault. Unfortunately the parachute caught around his ankle and was unable to open. Lonnie fell at 70 miles an hour and 541ft below into the river.

While lying in the water, he knew he was paralyzed, and he was pulled from the water just before drowning. Even though this was one of worst things that could’ve happened, he looks at his injury as a second chance at life. My “second birthday” as he likes to call it, and he was determined to BASE jump again as soon as possible to prove that his injury didn’t beat him. “I’m no quitter,” he says. Lonnie became a C3 incomplete quad. He can walk, but only short distances.

And within 12 months of his injury Lonnie did BASE jump again. His plan was to only jump once just to prove he could, a 500 ft base jump from Niagara Falls, but he loved it so much (and it went so smoothly) that he decided to become a regular BASE jumper again.

Over the following years, Lonnie would BASE jump from Skylon Tower in Ontario (420ft), Bridge Day in West Virginia (876ft), Devil’s Punch Bowl in Hamilton, Ontario (104ft), Sibu Tower in Malaysia (413 ft), and Kjerag (500ft) in Norway. And in 2011, he made history again being the first paraplegic to skydive in the wingsuit. So far, he is over 30 BASE jumps as a paraplegic.

What’s next

BASE jumping isn’t the only sport he’s been doing since his injury. In 2013, he tried paragliding in Spain, another sport he now loves, and in 2012 he was asked to try the brand new sport of para-bobsleigh. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of Rick Hansen’s Relay (Rick is paraplegic and another SCI superstar we’ve profiled who pushed himself around the world), Lonnie too pushed hard, pushing himself 840 miles from Winnipeg to Calgary in 2012 and with minimal long distance wheelchair pushing experience. It totally shed light on Rick’s monumental achievement.

This was when Lonnie was asked to be on Canada’s new para-bobsleigh team. After a few years of training, Lonnie competed in the World Cup in January 2015 in St. Moritz, Switzerland, placing 3rd overall.  And amazingly, last year he returned the site if his injury – Perrine Bridge in Idaho – to jump again and to reclaim what it took from him, and this time it was a success.  The entire jump was profiled by ESPN (watch the video).

Now 50 years old and still going strong, recently skydiving for the Pan Am Games as a torchbearer (he has over 1600 skydives to his credit as well), this father of two sons is all about pursuing his dreams, and has become a great example for the spinal cord injury community

Would you return to the site of your injury to BASE jump?

- Visit his site: LonnieBissionette.com

- Follow him on FB: Lonnie Bissionette

Watch the videos!

SPINALpedia visits Lonnie Bissonnette before his BASE jump in Malaysia

- The tale of Lonnie Bissonnette who jumps off buildings in his wheelchair

- Paralyzed BASE Jumper Rolls Off Bridge in Wheelchair

- Lonnie Bissonnette ESPN (complete)

SCI Superstar: Stephany Glassing

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By: Tiffiny | June 25th, 2015 @ 10:59 pm | SCI Superstars |


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Photo credit The Marietta Daily Journal

A former sit-n-ski water skier with several adapted water ski titles under her belt, Stephany Glassing is one of the few licensed female paraplegic pilots in the country. And that’s not all. She’s also a mother, an artist, former Ms. Wheelchair Georgia 2003 and a lover of monkeys. Yes you heard us right – monkeys.

The recipient of a Capuchin monkey (she requested one to help with depression), she’s become a huge disability service monkey advocate since receiving Tracy, speaking on behalf of the organization that gave her her monkey whenever she can.

To learn more about Stephany, an amazing woman and dedicated single mother who refuses to let her chronic pain win, read on.

Why she’s fearless

Raised by a mother who worked at NASA, Stephany dreamed of flying as a little girl. She grew up in Melbourne, Florida near NASA and was a total “Florida girl,” loving the sun and water. But like so many people when they’re a teenager, in 1984 she made a bad decision after drinking – she decided to get into the car of a friend who was drunk.

While a passenger, the car rolled and Stephany was ejected, with the car landing on top of her. She woke up a few days later in the hospital and was told she would never walk again. Stephany was grateful for the second chance at life and moved on strongly.

After her injury, Stephany went on to receive a degree in computer science from a local community college, and then she received an art degree from Arts Institute of Atlanta. She also became pregnant not too long after injury, giving birth to her daughter Briana; a young woman who went on to become Miss Atlanta in 2012 and Miss Cobb County (pictured above with Stephany). Stephany and her daughter were extremely close and remain so till this day.

In the first years after her injury, Stephany actually was not active athletically. It wasn’t until the early nineties when she discovered adapted water skiing. Growing up she loved the water, so this was a natural fit. From 1995 to 2007, Stephany was an active water skier and part of the USA Disabled Water Ski Team. In 1999, she won the title of Disabled Water Ski Champion and the USA National Ladies Sit Ski jump Champion.

Stephany eventually had to retire permanently from the water skiing in 2007 when she began experiencing chronic pain from sitting in her wheelchair for over 30 years.  And when she had a strange reaction to taking antibiotics in 2010, having a condition called Osteomyletis, which was a mass that literally melted her L4 vertebrae. Stephany had to get a rod and plate put in to help with the damage, which only increased her chronic pain.

Missing the water, Stephany is now an adapted rower, a new sport she’s fallen in love with, and she says it helps with her chronic pain immensely.

What’s next?

While doing peer support at the Shepherd Center near her home town of Marietta, Georgia, Stephany discovered Able Flight, an adapted flight nonprofit in North Carolina, that helps people with disabilities get their pilot’s license. An adrenaline junkie, Stephany knew this was for her. It took for several years because of health setbacks, but she eventually got her pilot’s license in 2012, flying a specially modified Sky Arrow S-LSA.

For Stephany, flying has been a beautiful tonic to her soul. “I love the sense of freedom flying gives me. It really gets me get out of my chair,” she likes to say. But 24 years later after her injury when her daughter moved out for college, even her love of flying couldn’t keep her spirits up.

For the first time since her injury, she became depressed. A longtime artist, Stephany thought outside-the-box to help herself, and applied for a Capuchin monkey from Helping Hands. She received Tracy, her monkey, just a few years ago, and her life had been transformed. Having Tracy has helped her in so many ways – a companion, someone to care for and of course someone who can help her too.

While Stephany’s athletic achievements have been impressive since her injury, what we’re really impressed by is her ability to thrive in the face of chronic pain, and fight depression and win in her later days. She proves we all have that fighting spirit within us, if we just know where to look for it.

Have you considered getting a Capuchin monkey?

- Learn more: Able Flight and Helping Hands

Watch the videos!

- Woman with Disability Learns to Fly

- Imagine a Monkey – Stephany shares how Tracy the monkey helps her

- Adaptive rowing for pain management