​11 Years with a Spinal Cord Injury

Posted by Zack Collie in Life After Paralysis on June 15, 2021 # Lifestyle

Zack outside in his wheelchair with his dogOn May 31, 2021, I marked 11 years of living and dealing with my spinal cord injury. Four thousand fifteen days of persevering and facing adversity on a daily basis. The day of my accident feels like a lifetime ago, yet I remember it like it happened yesterday. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would break my neck and become a quadriplegic. I was a very independent teenager at 15 years old and would have had my bags packed by the front door when I turned 18, ready to move out.

The first year after my injury, I really struggled on whether to be sad or celebrate. On the one hand, my life just changed forever, and at the time, I believed it was for the worst. I felt lost and hopeless. I was angry at my situation and wondered why the hell this happened to me. On the other hand, I could have died the day of my accident, and my family would be at my gravesite mourning me. I felt conflicted because I did not like my new situation but was grateful to still be with my family. The first two years after my accident was challenging for me. However, as time went on, my injury date got easier. I started to view my injury date as a celebration of life instead of my life is over.

Since breaking my neck in 2010, I have accomplished more goals in my life than I believe I would have in my entire life had my accident never happened. Because of my disability, I got a scholarship that helped pay for me to go to college. After I graduated with my bachelor's, I applied to a master's program for counseling and reapplied to my scholarship, asking for funding for a master's degree. Thankfully, both programs accepted me, and I felt like my life was on a path I felt passionate about. Breaking my neck has matured me in so many ways and tested me mentally.

My injury has shown me my true potential, and I am so proud of the person I have become. Weirdly, my accident has helped shaped me into the person I have always wanted to become. I broke my neck, but it did not break me. Every day is a challenge for someone living with a spinal cord injury. It is how we choose to respond to our situation that will determine our attitude and outlook on life.

At the end of this month, I will celebrate my "life day" for the eleventh time—eleven years of continued life and growth. Eleven years of being able to accomplish goals I never thought possible. I am so happy that I was not taken from this world back in 2010. I would not have developed the positive relationship I have with my family and watch my younger siblings grow up. Despite my situation, I am happy to still be alive and live my life. Life is an attitude. We may not be able to control everything that happens to us, but we will always choose how we react to those situations.

Zack Collie is living with quadriplegia and was paralyzed in 2010 diving under a wave at Newport Beach breaking his C-4 vertebrae. Zack started a YouTube channel to spread awareness about spinal cord injuries and his life living as one. His mother, Amber Collie, is also a regular blogger for the Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.