An Unknowingly Pregnant Woman Recalls the Terror of Her Near-Fatal Skydiving Accident

Aired on 10/11/2006 | CC tv-pg
Skydiving is a heart-pounding sport that appeals to thrill-seekers. Women like Shayna Richardson West. As an avid skydiver, Shayna knew the ropes and skydived frequently—until the unimaginable happened. During one of her final jumps, Shayna's parachute malfunctioned and sent her into a spiral toward the ground at a deadly speed. "I saw everything I've ever loved, everything I've ever dreamed of doing, just end. I knew that all I had to do for the rest of my life I wasn't going to get a chance to accomplish," Shayna told Oprah during her 2006 appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

As she was plummeting toward the earth with her life flashing before her eyes, Shayna was determined to try to fix the situation. "First, I'm thinking, 'I can fix this.' I've been taught what do in this situation. I can fix this. No problem," Shayna said. "And then the reality set in that I can't fix this. And that's when my heart sank."

Before she knew it, Shayna hit the ground face first, breaking every bone in her face as well as multiple bones in her body. "I knocked out the front five teeth in my mouth. I broke my pelvis in three places. I broke my right leg," she told Oprah. "Just completely eggshelled my face to the point that that bone couldn't even be reused." The only silver lining was that she was briefly unconscious toward the end of her descent and didn't remember the impact at all.

Shayna's recovery was far from a cinch. On top of myriad broken bones and missing teeth, Shayna also learned that she was two weeks pregnant at the time of the accident. "I hit the pavement at 50, full-frontal impact, and this poor, innocent baby also went through it. I had X-rays, CAT scans, MRIs, facial surgeries, sedations, medications; all these things that I was going through, my baby was also going through," Shayna told Oprah.

While Shayna was worried about her baby, the hospital was focused on nursing her back to health. "They even told me in the hospital they were more concerned about taking care of me at this point than the baby," she said. Happily, though, Shayna had good news to report about her son: "He's perfect."

Here, watch as Shayna relates the horrific events of that fateful day to Oprah and her breathless studio audience—and meet the newest member of Shayna's family who miraculously survived the fall with her.