As far as incredible survival stories go, Brad Guy's tale is up there. What was supposed to be a fun, adrenaline-pumping activity, quickly turned into a horrifying experience that still affects him to this day.
Aged 22 at the time, Brad planned to go skydiving during a big family outing in Victoria, Australia in 2013. When he arrived at the airport, he waited for hours with his mum, dad, three sisters, their husbands, four nephews and nieces, and his boyfriend at the time, because his jump kept getting delayed.
But he finally got the green light and hopped onboard the plane while his entire family waited on solid ground.
Brad tells LADbible: "As the doors opened...the last thing that happened before we left the plane, [my instructor, Bill] pointed to the GoPro strapped to his wrist and said to me, 'Any last words?'.I told him, 'I hope my parachute opens'.
Credit: Brad Guy
Strapped together, Brad and Bill jumped out of the plane and began their freefall. Brad says the view was amazing and the first few seconds were 'just total euphoria'.
But then he says: "I expected a big thrust for when the parachute opened...but it wasn't as big as I thought it would be and we didn't start slowing down. So, I look up and I see the parachute has deployed but it's not open."
Panic started to set in.
Instructor Bill began tugging at the ropes attached to the parachute, but all his efforts failed to get it to catch on the wind. Their two bodies, held together by a harness, began to shake violently, twisting and flipping through the air as they raced towards the earth.
"Eventually, I look up and see another parachute is out, and that's the emergency parachute," Brad says. "So, I'm freaking out at this point, because the two parachutes are tangled and stuck together and there's no hope."
Bill pulled out a knife to try and cut one of the parachutes away but it was near impossible. It was at that point that Brad had his first wave of guilt and sadness for bringing his family to, essentially, watch him die.
Brad adds: "The last thing I remember saying was, 'Are we going to die?' and he replied, 'I don't know' and then we hit the ground."
They landed on a golf course at a speed around 80 km/h (50 mph), before they ricocheted off the land and bounced into a lake.
Miraculously, they were still both alive.
Credit: Brad Guy
But Brad says: "The pain was almost too much to register. It felt like someone had got my spine and ripped it from my body. It was the most searing, excruciating pain. My skull was throbbing, I couldn't breathe, my chest felt like it had caved in on itself."
He freaked out when he saw Bill's unconscious body still attached to him and he started yelling at Bill to wake up. A group of golfers, who had seen the pair fall from the sky, arrived and helped them out of the lake and their harnesses.
A helicopter was dispatched and Bill was flown to the nearest hospital, while Brad was stretchered into an ambulance. Before being loaded into the back, he saw his mum and sister, hand-in-hand, running across the course (which was a few kilometres from the airport) with tears streaming down their faces.
"That's the part that makes me most upset when I'm looking back," says Brad. "Just the fact that they ran all that way and just wanted to make sure I was okay. I felt so horrible that I put all that trauma on them. I would never want to make them upset or cry but, for some reason, I just absorbed all that guilt."
Doctors told him he had broken his upper spine, fractured his lower spine, torn some ligaments in his neck and cracked several ribs. It was his first night in hospital when he realised that his mind wasn't okay. He was having incredibly vivid flashbacks of the fall and it was repeating itself every time he closed his eyes.
Brad had to wear a neck and back brace during his recovery outside hospital. Credit: Brad Guy
Astoundingly, he left hospital after four days, but that's when his real road to recovery began.
"I couldn't sleep solidly for the first five months and would have to knock myself out with medication. I was getting highly anxious and was constantly triggered," he says.
Brad believes his depression was mainly fuelled by his feelings of guilt for putting his family through such an ordeal. He locked himself in his room and refused to see anyone because he felt like he was a burden on them.
He says: "It was a lot of self-loathing and I really hated myself and a lot of the guilt came from mourning the old Brad. I've always been full of life, outgoing, gregarious, passionate, adventurous and that person was gone."
Those feelings were only exacerbated by the fact that he couldn't groom himself or travel by himself. Brad felt like he was 'a waste of space', even though he knew his family were happy to do anything to help him recover. Over time, he was talked in to going to a therapist, who diagnosed him with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and nightmare disorder.
Credit: Brad Guy/Facebook
Despite initially feeling like he was only going to burden the therapist as well, he was soon able to articulate his feelings and felt validated after being told that what he was going through was completely normal. That experience was cemented when he started looking to an unlikely source for help - YouTube.
He typed his feelings into the search bar and began watching videos about people dealing with PTSD or depression. He remembers: "It was so validating for me to see other people experience what I was going through because I had no stability and I had nothing to compare it to.
"I felt so alone and so isolated, so to have someone else, some stranger on the other side of the world from a different life say, 'I have PTSD and this is what it does', is enlightening and so helpful because it made me feel 'normal'."
What he desperately wanted was to go back to his job to have some normalcy and structure in his life. But when he told his boss that he wanted to get stuck into work, they told him he'd been made redundant.
While Brad was devastated, he tried to turn a negative into a positive.
Using some of the redundancy pay out, he bought a camera, laptop, microphone and light and tried his hand at vlogging. He was hesitant about becoming a YouTuber before the accident, but once he had the gear, he tried his hand at comedy and eventually began opening up about his mental health.
"All the comments of support made me feel so welcome in this little community and I could interact with these people and that really inspired me," he says.
Being able to express himself in that medium allowed him to tap into that old Brad who he thought had died in the accident. He now preaches an inspiring message about overcoming your demons.
He says: "Seek help and talk to someone because you don't have to suffer in silence. It might not seem like things will be fixed straight away. It might not happen tomorrow or in five years' time, but I absolutely guarantee that one day things will get better and you will recover."
Since the accident, he hasn't been able to get in contact with Bill, his instructor, who is physically fully recovered. Not because he couldn't pick up the phone or find an email address, but because he wasn't mentally prepared for it. He says it's difficult to describe the feeling, but he already felt guilty for being there that day, and didn't want Bill to feel accountable for what happened.
But he now feels, after overcoming a lot of his mental health issues, he'd like to catch up with Bill, have a few cold ones and bond over an emotional story.
'U OK M8?' is an initiative from LADbible in partnership with a range of mental health charities which features a series of films and stories to raise awareness of mental health.
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Featured Image Credit: Brad Guy