As different things happened in my life, both good and bad, I would always go back to the
Explore This IssueFebruary 2019
I ultimately found myself drawn back to the drop zone, a place where your soul can rekindle camaraderie without judgement, even though I had been absent for a few years. A unique place of almost unconditional acceptance. Things just seem clearer from 12,500 feet, and the baptismal cleansing of freefall is therapy unto itself. It saved me in more ways than I can explain.
Many times over the years I’ve been asked to explain why I did skydiving. I would put my hands out like the blind Lady Justice statue, tilt my right hand, and say, “Therapy?” Then I’d tilt my left hand and say, “Skydiving?” There really was no other choice for me. As different things happened in my life, both good and bad, I would always go back to the drop zone.
ENTtoday: What are some of the lessons from skydiving you’ve used in your medical practice?
JT: It’s a team approach in the operating room, but there’s no doubt you’re the commander of the team, and there are times when things go south and you have to take charge. Throughout my career I’ve been in some very complicated cancer surgeries where things weren’t going well and I had to maintain my calm. You gain that calm the more you jump: The thrill thing is there for the first hundred jumps—it’s all serotonin and adrenaline. But after you reach 2,000 to 3,000 jumps, it’s really about the finesse of ballet in the sky.
The lessons worked the other way too. The high stress of my residency, working all night, and complicated surgeries taught me that not everything turns out the way you plan it—you always have to have a Plan B. The ability to change strategies to get a better outcome helped me in skydiving, where you sometimes have to make sudden and smart decisions.
To read more about Dr. Taffet’s skydiving experiences, visit his blog at jmtview.wordpress.com.
Amy Hamaker is a freelance medical writer based in California.