Soaring to New Heights
The ability to be airborne is one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments.
Even though it has been nearly 300 years since the first manned flight, the unsettling sensation of not standing on solid ground is an unconquerable phobia for some; for others, the feeling is still an acquired taste, but after a couple of flights, they start to develop a love for being in the air.
For Kiersten Quick, however, this love is innate.
“I have dreamed about flying since the cradle,” she says, explaining the recurring dream that eventually led to her to take to the skies. Six and a half years ago, that dream became a reality when she made the decision to start hang gliding.
“I hit a point in life where I decided life was for living, and I started doing the things that I wanted to do.”
After 32 flights and almost a year of training at Lookout Mountain, Georgia, her big day came on January 2, 2016 — the day when she was to finally ridge soar as a pilot.
Unfortunately, the maiden flight did not go as planned.
Shortly after launching from the ground, her glider was struck by a gust of wind. She quickly discovered she was flying too slow, and as she turned away from the mountain, she stalled and lost several feet of altitude. Finding herself at the treetops and unable to make it to the landing zone, she chose a tree and hoped she would survive the approximate 70-foot freefall, hitting branch after branch on the way down.
While the branches prevented her from hitting the ground, the multiple impacts resulted in her fracturing her spine and arm, breaking six ribs and injuring her rotator cuff.
“I think my accident was the start of a very long journey for me. You have to let go. Let go of what you believe and hold on to hope for what your future will become.”
After receiving initial emergency care, undergoing surgery at the hospital and being fitted with a rigid, full upper-body turtle shell brace to protect her healing bones, she was transported to nearby Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation. There, she received 11 days of treatment from a skilled team focused on restoring her mobility and strength.
“This type of therapy — I think that was the best and made the biggest impact on my recovery because I had therapy a couple times every day. I had people right there to help me.”
When she completed her intensive treatment plan at Siskin, Quick walked away with full mobility and no pain.
“What I remember the most about Siskin Hospital is the people. Some of them I just loved. The therapists were wonderful,” she says, pointing out that her full recovery was “mind-boggling considering the severity of the accident.”
Quick also explained how perspective was crucial to her recovery, and how important it is to remain positive not only in life-threatening situations like her accident, but also when confronting adversity in all its forms.
“When I hit that ground I was so grateful to be alive, and it just carried through my entire experience. From the moment it all started, I felt like I was going to heal 100%. I knew it was temporary, so I pushed through.”
Her indomitable spirit, coupled with her dedicated rehabilitation care team and personalized recovery plan, led to her today having only two scars as the physical reminder of her accident. Emotionally, though, the experience is still as prominent in her mind as it was the day it happened, when it essentially marked the beginning of a new chapter in her life.
“I think my accident was the start of a very long journey for me,” she says, stating that when facing life-defining moments, “You have to let go. Let go of what you believe and hold on to hope for what your future will become.”
“It's growth. It's spiritual growth. That's why we're here. Sometimes you have to shatter to be rebuilt.”
Quick’s accident didn’t stop her from manifesting her love of flying, and she often travels around the country to find the best hang gliding spots for her to continue realizing her childhood dream.
The next step in Quick’s new journey? Paragliding.
She looks forward to slowing down a bit and having time to take in the scenery, an advantage of paragliding over hang gliding, and while she feels the air lift her parachute and gently lower her to the ground, she can reflect on how far she’s come.
“It’s growth. It’s spiritual growth. That’s why we’re here. Sometimes you have to shatter to be rebuilt.”
To connect with Kiersten Quick, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.
To learn more about the life-changing care provided by Siskin Hospital for Rehabilitation and talk with someone from their team, go to their website.
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