Off the Chart

Diving for dollars: How one physician’s bravery encouraged others to donate to Relay for Life

Each year, the staff at Oncology Hematology Associates in Springfield, Mo., participates in the American Cancer Society’s signature event, Relay for Life. However, partaking in this year’s fundraiser was riskier than normal for medical oncologist Robert Carolla, MD.

“One of my patients is a skydiver and a skydiving instructor. This year, he and one of the nurses got together and thought it would be a great idea to see if people would donate to Relay for Life if I would agree to jump out of a plane,” Carolla told HemOnc Today.

Carolla’s patient and nurse Kelly Paulie approached him with a deal: Carolla would take the plunge if the staff could raise $1,000 for Relay for Life.

“I thought it over and said, ‘No way will I do it for $1,000!’ Jokingly, I said I would do it for $10,000.”

To Carolla’s surprise, the staff managed to raise over $13,000 for the charity, making it impossible for Carolla to renege on his agreement. “When that happened, I felt that I was stuck and had to follow through with this deal,” he said.

The team’s fundraising event took place in May, but due to Carolla’s daughter’s pending wedding, he scheduled his big jump for July 4.

“My daughter got married in June and she was horrified that I might be injured in a jump prior to her wedding and would not be able to walk her down the aisle, so she made me wait until after June 21,” he said.

Robert Carolla, MD, his tandem instructor Christian Grill and videographer Toby Grizwold
Robert Carolla, MD, his tandem instructor Christian Grill and videographer Toby Grizwold.

On July 4, Carolla drove to the skydiving club at the Skydive Sky Ranch in Siloam, Arkansas. Carolla prepared to jump in tandem, a common technique where novice skydivers are hooked to an instructor who both wears and deploys the parachute. After receiving instructions for his jump, Carolla was hooked up to his instructor.

“It was an absolutely gorgeous day; there had been a lot of rain and everything was green and all of the lakes were full. There were maybe two clouds in the sky; it was sunny and it was the perfect temperature.”

Due to medical reasons, Carolla’s skydiving patient could not make the jump with him. However, he had one of his good friends and experienced skydiving instructors take Carolla on his first dive.

Kelley Paulie, RN, and Robert Carolla, MD
Kelley Paulie, RN, and Robert Carolla, MD.

Robert Carolla, MD, and his tandom instructor Christian Grill
Robert Carolla, MD, and his tandom instructor Christian Grill.

Once in the plane, Carolla and his instructor were taken 10,000 feet above the ground. They then jumped out of the plane and freefell for 5,000 feet. With 5,000 feet left, Carolla’s instructor pulled their parachute and they drifted toward the ground.

“The freefall was wild, but then when we opened the chute it was very quiet. I could talk to the instructor in a regular voice level; it was very peaceful.

“The parachute is rectangular in shape and there are two handles on either side so I was able to actually steer the parachute around. We steered into a cloud and came out of a cloud, and then gradually floated down to earth,” Carolla said.

When it was all said and done, Carolla was happy about his experience and would definitely consider skydiving again.

“It is something I would do again. I really enjoyed it and it was a lot more fun than I could have ever imagined,” he said. – by Stacey L. Adams

Each year, the staff at Oncology Hematology Associates in Springfield, Mo., participates in the American Cancer Society’s signature event, Relay for Life. However, partaking in this year’s fundraiser was riskier than normal for medical oncologist Robert Carolla, MD.

“One of my patients is a skydiver and a skydiving instructor. This year, he and one of the nurses got together and thought it would be a great idea to see if people would donate to Relay for Life if I would agree to jump out of a plane,” Carolla told HemOnc Today.

Carolla’s patient and nurse Kelly Paulie approached him with a deal: Carolla would take the plunge if the staff could raise $1,000 for Relay for Life.

“I thought it over and said, ‘No way will I do it for $1,000!’ Jokingly, I said I would do it for $10,000.”

To Carolla’s surprise, the staff managed to raise over $13,000 for the charity, making it impossible for Carolla to renege on his agreement. “When that happened, I felt that I was stuck and had to follow through with this deal,” he said.

The team’s fundraising event took place in May, but due to Carolla’s daughter’s pending wedding, he scheduled his big jump for July 4.

“My daughter got married in June and she was horrified that I might be injured in a jump prior to her wedding and would not be able to walk her down the aisle, so she made me wait until after June 21,” he said.

Robert Carolla, MD, his tandem instructor Christian Grill and videographer Toby Grizwold
Robert Carolla, MD, his tandem instructor Christian Grill and videographer Toby Grizwold.

On July 4, Carolla drove to the skydiving club at the Skydive Sky Ranch in Siloam, Arkansas. Carolla prepared to jump in tandem, a common technique where novice skydivers are hooked to an instructor who both wears and deploys the parachute. After receiving instructions for his jump, Carolla was hooked up to his instructor.

“It was an absolutely gorgeous day; there had been a lot of rain and everything was green and all of the lakes were full. There were maybe two clouds in the sky; it was sunny and it was the perfect temperature.”

Due to medical reasons, Carolla’s skydiving patient could not make the jump with him. However, he had one of his good friends and experienced skydiving instructors take Carolla on his first dive.

Kelley Paulie, RN, and Robert Carolla, MD
Kelley Paulie, RN, and Robert Carolla, MD.

Robert Carolla, MD, and his tandom instructor Christian Grill
Robert Carolla, MD, and his tandom instructor Christian Grill.

Once in the plane, Carolla and his instructor were taken 10,000 feet above the ground. They then jumped out of the plane and freefell for 5,000 feet. With 5,000 feet left, Carolla’s instructor pulled their parachute and they drifted toward the ground.

“The freefall was wild, but then when we opened the chute it was very quiet. I could talk to the instructor in a regular voice level; it was very peaceful.

“The parachute is rectangular in shape and there are two handles on either side so I was able to actually steer the parachute around. We steered into a cloud and came out of a cloud, and then gradually floated down to earth,” Carolla said.

When it was all said and done, Carolla was happy about his experience and would definitely consider skydiving again.

“It is something I would do again. I really enjoyed it and it was a lot more fun than I could have ever imagined,” he said. – by Stacey L. Adams