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80-year-old all set for parachute jump
10:00am Saturday 9th March 2013 in News
A PARTIALLY-sighted great grandmother is planning a charity freefall parachute jump just six months after a life-threatening illness.
In a fortnight’s time, Barbara Tabel, 80, will be harnessed to an instructor before the pair leap from an aircraft about two miles above Wanborough.
They’ll reach about 120mph before their parachute opens at 5,000 feet.
Widowed Mrs Tabel, who lives in Cricklade, has five children, nine grandchildren, seven great grandchildren and an eighth on the way.
Sponsorship money from her leap will be split evenly between Cricklade Open Door, a senior citizens’ social group of which she’s a member, and the Guide Dogs charity.
Mrs Tabel has lost all but 10 per cent of her sight due to illness, but the parachute jump holds no terrors for her.
“It amuses me,” she said. “I know I won’t be able to see, but it’s the stillness and the quietness. It’s also the thought that I can do something to help somebody else.
“Open Door is a good community place where people can come along and talk. I also wanted to help Guide Dogs.
“I was refused a dog myself because of my health, but other people need them so I thought I would help.”
Mrs Tabel is a former Princess Margaret Hospital nurse who retired in 1983, having been diagnosed with angina and a back injury.
She began to suffer a degenerative eye condition a decade ago and last September she was taken to hospital with a life-threatening bout of a rare autoimmune condition called bilious pemphagoid, which severely blistered her skin.
Mrs Tabel said: “I was in hospital for exactly a month, and a few weeks before that I collapsed and had to go to hospital for a blood transfusion because my haemoglobin and white cells were very low.
“They were investigating that and also my thyroid. I must be a rare old bird!”
On leaving hospital Mrs Tabel vowed to herself that she wouldn’t become inactive, and set herself the target of a parachute jump, a wingwalk and a glider flight.
“One of the doctors who treated me was the first to sponsor me when I asked if I could do these things.
“He gave me the money up front.
“He had faith in me so I have faith in myself.
“I’ll try to make the most of the life I have left.”
Mrs Tabel’s glider flight, arranged through a friend of her son, will take place later this year. She is also hoping to go abseiling.
Would-be sponsors for her parachute jump are invited to get in touch via the Adver on 01793 528144 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.