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Education

Woman's wild story of surviving 14,500 ft skydive fall because of fire ants is a must read

It's usually a bad thing to land in a mound of fire ants at 80 mph. But not if you're Joan Murray.

skydiving, fire ant bite
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Picture of a fire ant. Eek.

You have a 50% chance of surviving a fall of 48 feet, roughly equaling a 4-story building. The mortality rate rushes all the way up to 90% when you fall 84 feet, the distance of a 7-story building.

So if you’re falling from a whopping 14,500 feet, just over two-and-a-half miles, you can safely bet that you’re most definitely not getting out alive.

But one woman did. And that’s not even the wildest part of her story.

In 1999, a woman and skydiving enthusiast named Joan Murray, 47, had traveled to North Carolina to embark upon her 37th free-fall, with the purpose of testing out new equipment.

After carefully packing and prepping, Murray made her jump. Only when she pulled the cord for her parachute, nothing happened. There she was, hurtling towards the Earth at 80 mph.

According to a Star News article reporting the incident, Murray was finally able to release her emergency chute at 700 feet, but that only “swung her out of control.”

In a display of cosmic irony, Murray eventually slammed into the ground onto a live mound of fire ants. You can’t make this stuff up.

But incredibly, Murray survived the fall. Most of her bones were shattered, her teeth fillings flew out, her face was severely bitten by ants and she fell into a coma for two weeks…but she survived. As for how she survived such a harrowing fall, her doctor simply wrote “miracle” on her file.

And while Murray’s survival is no doubt miraculous, evidence suggests that those fire ants were the little angels behind it.

Murray had remained conscious after her fall (yikes) and reported that she could feel the burning sensation of the army of ants stinging her. Eventually, it was the unbearable pain of the stings, not the insane fall, that made her pass out.

When paramedics arrived on the scene, they saw Murray completely covered in hundreds of thousands of fire ants—and around 200 stings on her body. It was believed that the venom from their stings not only shocked her heart (thus keeping it beating) but caused her body to produce more adrenaline until help came.

Perhaps the most unbelievable part of this story is that Murray actually skydived again only two years after this disaster. She also turned down an offer to retire with disability from her job and Bank of America and continued her banking career that extended over 20 years.

Though Murray passed away in May of 2022, she is still remembered not only for her amazing survival, but her optimistic outlook on life.

As she shared with “People” following the accident, "Sometimes we take life for granted. I truly have fun putting my shoes on in the morning."

May we all find a way to find the same positivity…perhaps without the fire ants.

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From political science to joining the fight against cancer: How one woman found her passion

An unexpected pivot to project management expanded Krystal Brady's idea of what it means to make a positive impact.

Krystal Brady/PMI

Krystal Brady utilizes her project management skills to help advance cancer research and advocacy.

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Cancer impacts nearly everyone’s life in one way or another, and thankfully, we’re learning more about treatment and prevention every day. Individuals and organizations dedicated to fighting cancer and promising research from scientists are often front and center, but we don’t always see the people working behind the scenes to make the fight possible.

People like Krystal Brady.

While studying political science in college, Brady envisioned her future self in public office. She never dreamed she’d build a successful career in the world of oncology, helping cancer researchers, doctors and advocates continue battling cancer, but more efficiently.

Brady’s journey to oncology began with a seasonal job at a small publishing company, which helped pay for college and awakened her love for managing projects. Now, 15 years later, she’s serving as director of digital experience and strategy at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which she describes as “the perfect place to pair my love of project management and desire to make positive change in the world.”

As a project manager, Brady helps make big ideas for the improvement of diagnosing and treating cancer a reality. She is responsible for driving the critical projects that impact the lives of cancer researchers, doctors, and patients.

“I tell people that my job is part toolbox, part glue,” says Brady. “Being a project manager means being responsible for understanding the details of a project, knowing what tools or resources you need to execute the project, and facilitating the flow of that work to the best outcome possible. That means promoting communication, partnership, and ownership among the team for the project.”

At its heart, Brady’s project management work is about helping people. One of the big projects Brady is currently working on is ASCO’s digital transformation, which includes upgrading systems and applications to help streamline and personalize oncologists’ online experience so they can access the right resources more quickly. Whether you are managing humans or machines, there’s an extraordinary need for workers with the skillset to harness new technology and solve problems.

The digital transformation project also includes preparing for the use of emerging technologies such as generative AI to help them in their research and practices.

“Most importantly, it lays the groundwork for us to make a meaningful impact at the point of care, giving the oncologist and patient the absolute latest recommendations or guidelines for care for that specific patient or case, allowing the doctor to spend more time with their patients and less time on paperwork,” Brady says.

In today’s fast-changing, quickly advancing world, project management is perhaps more valuable than ever. After discovering her love for it, Brady earned her Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification through Project Management Institute (PMI)—the premier professional organization for project managers with chapters all over the world—which she says gave her an edge over other candidates when she applied for her job at ASCO.

“The knowledge I gained in preparing for the PMP exam serves me every day in my role,” Brady says. “What I did not expect and have truly come to value is the PMI network as well – finding like-minded individuals, opportunities for continuous learning, and the ability to volunteer and give back.”

PMI’s growing community – including more than 300 chapters globally – serves as a place for project managers and individuals who use project management skills to learn and grow through events, online resources, and certification programs.

While people often think of project management in the context of corporate careers, all industries and organizations need project managers, making it a great career for those who want to elevate our world through non-profits or other service-oriented fields.

“Project management makes a difference by focusing on efficiency and outcomes, making us all a little better at what we do,” says Brady. “In almost every industry, understanding how to do our work more effectively and efficiently means more value to our customers, and the world at large, at an increased pace.”

Project management is also a stable career path in high demand as shown by PMI research, which found that the global economy will need 25 million more project managers by 2030 and that the median salary for project managers in the US has grown to $120K.

If you’d like to learn more about careers in project management, PMI has resources to help you get started or prove your proficiency, including its entry-level Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification program. For those interested in pursuing a project management career to make a difference, it could be your first step.

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“I’m so upset,” she says in the video. "I get on the train at 7:30 a.m., and I don't get home until 6:15 p.m. [at the] earliest. I don't have time to do anything!" Asero said in a video.

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