SALISBURY, N.C. (WGHP) — When we first met Debbie Dickerson, she was only about four months removed from her ALS diagnosis, which came on March 9, 2022.
That day, she told us she planned to skydive, as part of her bucket list. Since then, she crossed off other bucket list items, including going on a cruise and parasailing. This month, she decided it was time to take that bucket list to new heights.
She had a date in mind.
On January 26, Debbie’s daughter gave birth to a daughter, named Hazel. She is Debbie’s first granddaughter.
Exactly six weeks later, on March 9, 2023, the three of them journeyed to Piedmont Skydiving in Salisbury.
“I can’t walk a long ways anymore,” Debbie said, after riding a wheelchair to the registration area. She is not wheelchair-bound and is still able to walk short distances.
Overall, however, Debbie feels fortunate for how her disease is progressing.
“I’ve met others who were diagnosed around the same time as me that are like completely in wheelchairs,” she said.
After filling out her paperwork, part of the group sat down at picnic tables.
“I’m going skydiving,” Debbie said. “This is me saying, ‘not today.’”
After a short shuttle ride, Debbie and several other people stepped onto a plane and took off. She was carried to about 12,000 feet, where she and her skydive instructor jumped out.
When asked about her final thought before leaving the aircraft, Debbie said, “end ALS, I’ll just say end ALS.’ Yes.”
After about 45 seconds of freefalling at a speed of around 120 miles per hour, her instructor pulled their parachute.
“When he pulls the parachute it’s just so calm. And you get to see all around,” Debbie said. “It’s beautiful. Beautiful.”
As the two came to the ground, the legs which have been slowly failing her performed perfectly, gracefully landing her back on the ground.
“It’s probably the, yeah the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Debbie said.
Having turned the page on March 9, Debbie is now looking for other adventures, while she distances herself from the date of her diagnosis and continues to inch closer to her true purpose.
“Best things I’ve done in my life are of course my children,” she said. “And now my grandchild.”
The Tuesday after going skydiving, Debbie had her latest clinic appointment with Duke Health’s Dr. Richard Bedlack, where she was told she had no major changes since her last visit. In her words, that is great news.