Aviation for Women

MAR-APR 2018

Aviation for Women is the flagship member publication of Women in Aviation International. Articles feature women who have made aviation history, professional development ideas, and current-topic articles.

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M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 8 AviationforWomen 19 DAVID TREINIS PHOTOS COURTESY OF JANINE SHEPHERD Suspended between life and death for 10 days after a tragic accident, Janine Shepherd, an Australian elite ski racer known as "Janine the Ma- chine," recalls the difficult choice she had to make to let go or return to a body that would never be whole again. On May 31, 1986, a truck hit Janine during a bicycle ride in the Blue Mountains of Australia, just before competing in the Calgary Winter Olympics as a gold medal contender. Her doctors did not expect her to survive after the accident, and when she did, they warned her that she would never walk again. With excessive internal bleeding, serious head injuries, and multiple broken bones in her back, neck, feet, right arm, Janine real- ized the path to recovery would not be easy and would challenge her to the core. Drawing on her tools as an athlete, she decided during her six months in the hos- pital to rehabilitate her permanent disabilities with a very high level of discipline and firm goals. "I have a ver y clear remembrance of making a choice to come back to my body," Janine says. "I say that my recovery was 10 percent physical and 90 per- cent mental. There were so many times during my re- covery that I wanted to give up, and I would have to call on all the resources and qualities that I had culti- vated as an elite athlete." It was during this recovery process of spinal cord injury that flying found Janine and saved her life. She had finally accepted that her days as an athlete were over, and knew she had to find something to fill the enormous void in her life. She remembered while sit- ting in her wheelchair on her parents' porch an air- plane flew over and she told her Mom, "If I can't walk, then I might as well learn to fly." It was after her first intro flight, while still wearing a full plaster body cast, Janine got "the burning desire to learn to fly," she says. It not only gave her a new direc- tion, "but it restored my sense of hope for my future, Janine says. So just eight months after a near-death accident, Janine carefully planned her flight lessons with the dedication of an elite athlete complete with goals, measurable results, and a calendar. "Now I had a reason to get out of bed," Janine says. "I was so fo- cused and determined that in 18 months I received my private, commercial, and flight instructor certificates." She says, "When I was in control of my aircraft, I never felt like a person with a disability, and that wa s a tremendous b o ost for my self- e st e em . It i s on ly in taking action, in "When I was in control of my air- craft, I never felt like a person with a disability, and that was a tremendous boost for my self-esteem." An elite ski racer and competitive athlete, Janine's life turned when she was hit by a truck during a bicycle training ride in the Blue Mountains of Australia just before competing in the Calgary Winter Olympics. Doctors did not expect her to survive after her accident, and warned her that she would never be able to walk again.

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