Shayna West has cheated death. On October 9, 2005, West leaped from a plane in Arkansas, her sixth skydiving jump, her first unaccompanied. Her main parachute failed to open properly and she spiraled out of control. Then as she fell further towards the Earth, her emergency chute failed to open. Any skydiver will tell you it is a one-in-a-million malfunction.
West did not know that when she plummeted towards the ground she was two weeks pregnant. She learned this when she was rushed to a hospital emergency room. She said if she knew she were pregnant, she wouldn’t have jumped.
Hindsight is 20-20, but the bond it has given her with her son Tanner appears to be worth it. West was on the Today show yesterday speaking about her survival and the medical journey she ahd to undergo to ‘reconstruct her face after it shattered like an eggshell upon impact.’ “I’ve had my share of hard times and bad luck, but in the mix I’ve also had some wonderful things come out of it,” West told Meredith Vieira via satellite. “The last three years, my babies are what kept me going. But I’ve also met so many wonderful people, and just have been blessed with everything that has come along my path.”
Amongst her laundy list of massive injuries, West had broken nearly every bone in her face, lost most of her teeth, and also suffered a broken leg and pelvis. Tanner at the time was such a small fetus, that he survived the impact. Thankfully, those worries dissipated as doctors monitored her unborn and found he was progressing normally.
Just six weeks after Tanner was born healthy and normal, West indeed made another jump. “I don’t like to have things in my life that scare me and intimidate me or can overpower me,” West told Vieira Tuesday. “I just didn’t want this to be an exception, so I felt it was important for me to get up there and do it again.”
Three years later, West continues to deal with the surgical consequences over her accident. Only last week, she underwent her sixth facial surgery. The doctors at St. John’s Hospital donated their services, putting in cheek implants — and, most importantly, fixed her lower eyelids. “Until this last surgery, my lower eyelids were so pulled down that I couldn’t close them completely,” she told Vieira. “For a shower or a bath or to go swimming [or] sleeping, my eyes would be partially open.”
But even enduring multiple surgeries, West says her life has been charmed. She gave birth to a second child, daughter Bridget, eight months ago. Tanner suffers no ill effects from being a part of the accident. Having conquered any lingering fear of skydiving with one postpartum jump, West told Vieira she isn’t definitively planning another. “I have two much more important things to take care of on the ground,” the young mom said. “They give me all the rush I need right now. But maybe someday. I’m not going to rule it out.”