Bille put together a response to my questions and also provided a more in-depth look
as to how he worked out of a severe injury like this and back into an active life. It is
lengthy but I think it is worth reading, particularly for folks fighting their own challenges
or have friends who might be. You never know what is possible until you try,
sometimes very hard.
His story picks up after his severe hang gliding tow accident which destroyed his
lower legs, resulting in dual amputations. He is thinking about the way forward.
"SO --here I was, lying in a hospital bed, and both legs just got diced off; and this is my new
reality. I needed to deal with it or Die ; what's it going to be ?
I got the volume turned up wide-open on the animal inside. It's a bit like going into shock when the body gets damaged; only instead of blocking pain, I was "Trying" to subduing emotional stress.
In November of 2007 I had convinced myself that I'd be getting a handle on how to deal with the new reality, in as little as a few months. I outright lied to myself, so as to keep that feeling of HOPE in place! Should have known better, because it was a full year before I could subdue that yearning sensation for a cigarette, when I quit in 1997. This was to be a much larger undertaking ; figuring out How to not Loose it because my legs are gone. I had a friend kill himself because of Bad drugs, and another one do the same because he was having problems with his girl and I really didn't want to join them.
I Laugh a Lot ; & try to get as many people around me to do the same , (comic relief) ?
It's 2014 now, and I am just now starting to get a clue, on how to adjust the volume on that emotional charge. It gets me out of bed in the morning, to put on two fake legs and get on with things.
Going around all wound up; it burns me out, just as much as the people around me. So, I am learning to back down and adapt.
I had a good teacher for that one, my best friend in San Diego who used to be # 6 in the world at full contact karate. He described several ways to control the switch on that awareness and emotion. It's
a way to actually control the endorphins, that flow through your body. Your awareness is heightened to a point where time seems to go in slow-motion. Anyone who is practiced and good at what they do, will have the same experience. In my case, whenever I'm experiencing this while flying , it's like what a decent snow-skier sees when he's thinking ahead and viewing his line down 3 to 5 moguls in front of him. I Never thought about using the above technique, to control emotions ; it seams Much more difficult.
Managing things in the new reality :
I spent 2008 in a wheel-chair. Kiting was still a priority and I regularly went to the dry-lake-bed to do down-winders in my wheelchair over land while a married girl friend followed me in her big red truck. Basically anything to make myself feel better and keep that ray of hope burning.
The same girl took me on a two-place Manta landsailer that was owned by ,(A Wind of Change), in Las Vegas.
The wind was blowing about 30-mph, and i was sitting on the wind-ward side and watching the dust get thicker as our speed built. I got scared and asked her to slow down a bit because I was afraid that the thing would tip-over.
"SLOW DOWN" , she replied ?
I watched her eyes get Bigger, and heard this Clicking noise from the block that fed the sheet to the Main-sail as she powered-up the machine. I noticed the dust stop on the tire on my side ; it left the ground, and she had the forces all balanced perfectly . GPS had us clocked at about 65-mph , in about 15 to 20 seconds later !!
OK -- That was really my First adrenaline Rush, since my accident , ( it was a FUN one) and like All us adrenaline junkies ; after a decent Rusk, we all , (Want / Need) -------------------------------------- More !!
The same girl talked me into purchasing a BloKart landsailer, and over the next few months, we blazed the dry-lake beds a LOT together, (she had the same machine for herself). It's a single-place landsailer, that would Max-out at about 45-mph ; but 4 to 6 inches off the ground, it seamed much faster !!
I purchased a used 13M Ozone Edge, about the middle of summer of 2008, in hopes that I would still be able to kite-board with my new fake legs, (when i got them) ? Yea, i was hanging on to HOPE ; even though I had bin told that it probably Wasn't gonna happen.
On Oct 31 , (Halloween) of 2008 I received my first set of Fake legs ; after spending nearly a full year in a wheelchair.
On Thanksgiving day , a month after getting the legs, I went to Joshua Tree Ca , to watch my buddies do some rock climbing .
Emmy , the 7-year old daughter of my friend Scott, had just come down from a 80-ft vertical rock wall, and she motioned me over closer to her. She said : " OK Bille, it's Your turn now" , and she actually tied the figure-8 on the rope, to attach me to my harness, (the one i had Just gotten coaxed into putting on after the Lil girl told me i could : "Do this". She tells me to just go up a little bit, and her Dad would catch me if I Fall.
Now I'm 40 foot up the wall and i realize that I had Never done any climbing when i Had legs , so what in world am i doing this Now for, ---------------------------- with two Fake legs ?
Emmy and her Dad, kept urging me up further; 45, 50, then 60-ft up. I got to the top at 80-ft and touched the Belay carabineer; but now I was too tired to repel back down, so Scott called his brother over, and the two of them let me down like a sack of potatoes!! Remember that I had only received the new fakies a month earlier, after spending nearly a year sitting on my butt , I was kinda weak !!
I wonder if that Lil girl ever knew just how much drive she gave me to "At-least TRY;" and how much it would affect me at other sports? It's that "I can DO this" attitude , that she instilled in me right from the onset; when she gets older I'll tell her how much it helped !!
It was February-ish 2009, when the same married female friend who took me on the land sailor (Romona) took me to the lake to to do some body drags with my 19M Peter Lynn ram-air. After several body-drags, Romona tossed me my board. It was near optimum conditions with side-shore light wind of about 12 to 13-mph, and the beach bent around a bit about a few 100 yards down-wind, to catch me if things went bad!
I kept thinking, “I can do this, I made it Up that rock wall ” !
I got up on plane on my second or third try, but that night, I had to go back and figure out exactly WHY the board wanted to turn up-wind the moment I bent my back leg. Turned out that my duck-stance was the problem.
As soon as I went pigeon-towed, the problem disappeared. My ankles are made of carbon and stainless steel and it made a difference as to how the angle on the bottom of my foot placement affected my board.
A week later I went to “6-mile,” a local kite beach , with my new, (used) 13M Edge, and gave it a go. It went well and I was glad that I hadn't wasted my money purchasing something I'd never use!
Each try at a different sport, just reinforced the belief in my abilities; to man-up and try something else.
First kite-board try
March 2009, a buddy took me on a hang gliding adventure, through Southern Cali. My first few tries back on a gliding , were on a Rogallo-wing . It was a nerve wracking foot launch take-off, but the rush over-powered the nerves, as soon as the fake feet left the ground. The shot of that first flight is in the magazine article that RickI posted .
Moving on, I’m starting to feel a bit more human every day but I still have the emotional volume turned up a bit too high at times. Maybe a Lot too high ?
It was a few months later that I tried a bit of ridge-soaring on my Rigid-wing hang glider at Torrey Pines in San Diego. Other than forgetting to use the flaps on take-off, that flight went well also. I got down on myself for that one, because if it had not been blowing 25 mph , I would have been in trouble trying to launch the glider. After loosing the spleen, and then both legs 20-years later ; i really shouldn't be depending on Luck to get me through, (it was probably mostly Gone by now (?)) !!
No excuses for failure ; screw-up and die. It's a mind-set with no room for mistakes.
Torrey Shot on Exxtacy
I tried snow skiing in that same winter. I need a bit of work on that sport, but I had some decent control for what I had to work with. At the top of the mountain a ski instructor was telling me about how loosening up the boots will help with my circulation. My buddy & his girlfriend were rolling in the snow from laughing so hard.
When I pulled up my ski-pants, the instructors face turned kinda white with what was showing below the ski-pants. He could take a joke, and soon we were all laughing !
Well in 2010, I'm up at King Mountain in Idaho and standing at a launch with the same glider as at Torrey Pines. It's the U.S. National Hang Glider competition and I’ve got maybe a few hundred people watching.
In the beginning, it doesn't go so well, my nerves got to me. I hadn't actually flown that glider in a thermal for nearly 4 years. When the launch director let go of the nose of my glider at the launch ; I became gripped with fear. My knees started shaking and the hands began to sweat and then I fell down !
They helped me back up , and blamed the fall on the fake legs. They urged me to try again.
This time I could smell the sage from the valley below and see the wind going through the trees.
A fast flapping, small bird called a Swift, flew past my nose-plate, and began a slight climb, ( urging me to join in).
Then everything went to slow-motion, the burning down my back, with all the hairs on my arms standing up straight. Everything went into Slow Motion ; I smiled then ran down the launch.
The Gods took me to 14,000 feet in my first thermal and I could hear the crowd below cheering, as they all got smaller. As soon as the fluid in the inner ear stopped moving; it was like I was still, and the world below was turning and slowly falling away . I felt :"One With the World" ; such a Cool Feeling !!
I truly felt the feeling that "I'm BACK" !!
King Mt shot
As I got stronger kiteboarding I decided to give a hydrofoil a try. First though, I figured that I should learn to kite with a surfboard. Needed to learn a different balance while using a surfboard with the new legs. I would alternate between a twin tip and the surfboard on every other session. Soon I began to break the fake legs while on both the TT , and surfboard. I broke a total of 6 legs while kiting. I fixed all of them and proceeded to bust them again, with the help of a HG and PG. One of them was after a double back-roll on a directional surfboard board , and the old Naish Sky Pirate survived !
Doesn't say much for the integrity of these state of the art prosthesis, does it?
Anyway, last year I busted two fake legs on two consecutive days of kiting, we’re talking $20,000 in tax-payer money. That is when I decided to stop kiting until i came up with a fake leg design that could take the abuse. The last design I pulled off the mold, almost took out my knee, because it was too strong and stiff. All I need to do now is to reduce the stiffness and strength, such that the flex will allow the knee cap to not load up in a major crash ; but keep it's integrity where it usually breaks at the bottom. I'm getting close!
Leg Mold shot
I’ve been regularly flying hang gliders and paragliders , along with snow skiing. and land buggy ; I also went in halves on purchasing a Hobie-20 catamaran with with my buddy last summer.
We went out on Lake Mohave and it was blowing about 30 mph. We had the main reefed in to the size of a Hobie-16, with no jib. We made it most the way to “9-mile”, when a 35-mph gust came and blew out the main-sail. My buddy was PISSED, costing $1500 for a replacement.! He kept asking why do I have to max everything out?! We sailed back on just the jib and the entire way back he kept saying "Slow Down” , because it was the full size for the 20-ft catamaran , and were headed down-wind !! We had to sell it after that, because he didn't trust me any more.
No worries ; I still got a Hobie 21se . HeHe !!
I'm working on staying strong by doing these 4-hour hikes in the local mountains. A woman who just went to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro at 5,895 meters , (19,341 ft.) ; has offered to help train me, and it isn't gonna be easy. I'll keep the same attitude that I learned from that first 80-ft climb i did ; keep that I can do this attitude. Should be in Good shape to kite board in a few more weeks.
One thing I did learn is about Risk management. Like at the top of Calico Tanks, a rough hike outside Las Vegas last week. I could have easily have scrambled to the top without safety gear, but I stopped short.
Basically I'm starting to realize, that I won't get any better at Anything, if I'm Dead !
I'll go to wide-open when the timing is right and stay backed off when it isn’t.
It's the reason I get on peoples cases when they jump off mountains with their water-kites and they’re not using a reserve parachute for a back-up, if things go BAD, (like they did in this next shot).
It's the mid 80's, and I'm on a borrowed glider that just broke while I was about 450-ft up in the air.
That feeling of immortality went away quite Fast, as the speed built in my vertical decent without the wings to hold me up any longer. It only took a bit of time to fall that 450-ft ; but since my metabolism was cranking at such a high rate of speed ; the fall appeared to take a Lot longer. Time appeared to be going, ( Frame by Frame ) ; and the closer i got to hitting the earth, the slower time would appear to proceed. Then i was DEAD !!
After I got the CPR to bring me back ; I got a Helicopter ride to the ER , where they had to remove my spleen, and fix a few broken bones. It was a rather expensive lesson that I would have to Relearn in 2007 ! Sometimes Humans suck , at remembering stuff.
Bad day at Torry
On , Friday May the (30) of this year I learned the most valuable lesson of all, since my legs ran away. I went to a fly-in, to hang out with a few hundred friends and get a few hours of air-time. The wind was too light to launch my Rigid-wing, so I borrowed a paraglider and jumped off the mountain with it. I flew it well enough to pick up a partial sponsorship.
I think that happened because i hadn't smoked any POT in a month, and the mind was real clear ?
I got High and drunk that same evening. All the next day I smoked more POT, but didn't drink much beer because I wanted to fly on Sunday, June 1.
So Sunday I flew my Rigid-wing, and never felt so Disconnected to the machine ; and I have several hundred hours on it. It didn't make sense at first , because I had done so well, on that new paraglider machine, that I'd never been on before just two days before.
That evening, I clued-in right away; it was Also the reason i haven't been able to finish my design for a prosthetic and it was obvious, and the POT needed to be eliminated from my life completely. YEP, I had a Clear-head when I flew the paraglider, but had lingering amounts of THC from the POT in my body when I was flying the Rigid-wing on Sunday! I had over-done it the day before with the herb.
SO the last time I got High on POT, was on May 31, and the new leg is nearly Done now .
The results are astonishing, ( imagine that )! Amazing what a person can do with a Clear mind !!
It's been several years now and I'm just now starting to get a clue on how to adjust the volume on the emotional control button. Just like when i quit smoking; I feel emotionally stronger every day. At age 61 , I got a feeling I'll be having a Lot of fun for at least a Few more years; then I'll back down a bit as the reflexes get slower. I'm Hoping I can die on a kite-board when I'm about 95 !!
And last :
If it weren't for Seriously good friends like Romona and Melli, who helped me out so much
No way would I have the frame of mind I got Now !! This girl went to the bottom of the lake
with a hang-over; and got the leg I lost.