Thanks to a mandated pre-skydive health test, Ed Flemming has a new lease on life

It’s strange to imagine skydiving saving a life (with the possible exception of George H.W. Bush, whose yearly fall from the skies seems only to strengthen him), but that’s just what happened to Ed Flemming.

Flemming, 74, promised his grandson that he’d go skydiving with him when turned 18. “I thought, well that’s one thing I can check off the list, so I’ll go with him,” Flemming, from Wimberley, Texas, told Austin’s KXAN.

But a bit of red tape ended up having far-reaching and fortunate repercussions for Flemming: Skydiving company Skydive San Marcos requires clearance from a doctor for any individual over 65 who wants to go skydiving.

“I took the stress test Friday afternoon and was driving home and got a call from them saying to turn around and get to the Austin heart hospital as soon as you can,” Flemming recalled. Turns out, he needed open-heart surgery to treat five blocked arteries – a quintuple bypass.

Flemming said his initial response was disbelief: “I just thought it was a mistake on the part of someone’s machinery, because I felt fine, I had no symptoms at all.”

Dr. Brannon Hyde, who performed Flemming’s surgery at the Heart Hospital of Austin three days after his diagnosis, told KXAN that Flemming’s situation was far more dire than he knew.

“If he had not got the surgery, based on these pictures, we know that his long term survival would not be good. In fact at some point, he would’ve had a major heart attack,” Dr. Hyde said.

And Flemming still aims to keep that promise. Whatever the circumstances of his newfound health, he said, “I’ll take it … Divine intervention, or fate, or whatever, I’m certainly glad I did it,” Soon as I get clearance from these fellas, I’ll be ready to go.”