As far back as when I first wrote a bucket list, I've always wanted to go Hot Air Ballooning. I left it on the bottom of the list not really putting too much thought into it. It's only been the last few years I have really decided to brave and do everything with Jimmy that I thought I'd never be able to do.
Last year I finally decided I was ready to enquire about taking him. I made a few phone calls to a couple of company's explaining my situation. Some didn't even give me the time of day and it was a flat out no before I could even explain much. I was told if you can't stand for a whole hour or climb into the basket we're sorry there is nothing we can do. I thought maybe I'll email a few others and adding my blog to show them what we have done in our adventures already. Some were promising and I had my fingers crossed but I ended up with the same answer, No we could not take Jimmy on a flight. Some didn't even return an email to me after saying they would try. I felt like this was going to be a hard one and I wasn't giving up.
I was googling constantly trying to find someone who would be able to help, then I put in Disabled Hot Air Ballooning, and the first thing that popped up was Global Ballooning Australia and it's in Melbourne. I sent an email along with my blog and well a few months later here I am writing about our experience.
On Sunday the 31st of March, we flew to Melbourne. I was so excited and thinking that it's a short flight Jimmy will be fine so I didn't take spare clothes in my carryon and I forgot to check his nappy before boarding.... what happened next... after takeoff, we had a full nappy then when the seat belt light turned off, pee everywhere. I took a deep breath wrapped my jacket around him took him to the toilet, changed his nappy and turned his wet pants around so he wasn't sitting on the wet part. Poor Jimmy had to sit there for another couple of hours in damp pee'd on clothes. I felt so bad, the air hostess had to disinfect the seat but she thanked me for letting them know and they were all so supportive. He wet through twice before we landed and there was nothing I could do. He lost a lot of fluid and wasn't wanting much to drink. It was a little concerning as this is what can happen with his diabetes insipidus and cause a seizure.
Upon arrival in Melbourne, we had a quick change and picked up our hire car which they upgraded us to their best car, yay for us! Everything now seemed to go to plan. Even better we had a brand new Pajero that took Elise and me 20 minutes to work out how to adjust the rear view mirror. But honestly, we thought it was electric because everything else was and we couldn't find the button... there was no button, it was normal like any other car to adjust... I then drove us to Balgownie Estate and all was good.
That night Jimmy seemed happy and his normal self but around 2.30am I woke up and couldn't sleep it wasn't long after Jimmy woke up asking for a drink. (I believe he was dehydrated from peeing so much) I gave him 1 then he asked for another then the crying started. After that it was constant nothing I did was making Jimmy happy. By 4.45am I gave him Panadol and doubled up 1 of his meds in case he was getting sick because he was so upset. I started to get worried and I was so frustrated. 6am came around and we had to go to the meeting point. I wasn't sure if this was a good idea taking Jimmy up but I think the meds started to kick in because he finally cracked a few smiles and when we met our bus driver Bambi, Jimmy would listen to him and stay quiet.
We found out we would be flying with Eddie and we learned a bit about how a Hot Air Balloon flys.
I absolutely loved it and would do it again in a heartbeat. Jimmy, on the other hand, was still not feeling the best he didn't want to be strapped into his seat, and halfway through he was getting a bit grumpy with the belt, he just wasn't his normal cheerful self. But he did love it when he could hear the noise from the flame, that made him giggle so I don't think it was all that bad for him. Plus he had a young lady who was the same age sitting beside him and she allowed Jimmy to hold her hand. It wasn't until the end of the flight Jimmy really started getting excited I don't know if it was because he knew it was over or he finally started feeling better. Overall I do believe he enjoyed himself but being unwell made it a little uncomfortable for him. One day I'll take him on it again.
After our flight, we had a nice champagne Breakfast and received our certificates.
I am over the moon that Global Ballooning has allowed me to give Jimmy and other Disabled persons this opportunity of a lifetime.
And to my friend Elise who's always willing to come along to Jimmy's and my adventures even though she might lose sleep, help piggyback him or even just carry my bag. How amazing to have a friend like that.
LINK TO MY VIDEO - HOT AIR BALLOONING
I’m going to leave you with this, the story behind disabled Hot Air Ballooning...
Australia's first Easy Access Basket (EAB) was launched by Global Ballooning Australia in 2012.
The basket enables passengers with physical mobility impairments to experience the joy of a hot air balloon flight along with their family and friends.
Unlike traditional balloon baskets that require passengers to climb in and out over the edge, the innovative EAB incorporates a door to allow less able-bodied individuals, including those with serious physical disabilities, to enter and exit the basket with ease. The EAB also incorporates customised seating, harness and a grab handle suspended from the burner frame.
It hasn’t always been smooth flying for GBA's Director, Kiff. In January 2010, Kiff was in a near-fatal motorbike accident. He woke up in the Royal Melbourne Hospital and with life threatening injuries began a yearlong recover process. As he entered the long road of rehabilitation, having to learn to walk again, he feared that he might never again return to being a commercial balloon pilot.
Whilst in rehab, Kiff met specialist injury lawyers, Peter Burt and Clara Davies, who began acting for him in his TAC claim. Having never previously acted for a balloon pilot, Burt and Davies embarked on research into a day in the life of a hot air balloonist. This involved them experiencing an early morning flight over Melbourne and subsequent discussions about what was involved. During his journey back to health, many discussions were had and a bond was formed. This led to Kiff's epiphany to build Australia’s first Easy Access Basket, allowing those with disabilities to experience a lighter than air balloon flight over Melbourne and to improve quality of life in the process.
Global Ballooning Australia & Burt and Davies jointly funded the design and production of Australia's first commercial disabled passenger balloon. It is an innovative and altruistic joint venture intended to provide happiness to those who would otherwise be denied.
This project required a first of its type balloon basket to be designed and constructed by an Australian balloon manufacturer and certified airworthy by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). Global Ballooning Australia amended its operating procedures after making a successful safety case to CASA and thereby obtaining an exemption against the regulations prohibiting the flight of handicapped persons in commercial hot air balloon operations.