12 Years of Continued Life

Posted by Zack Collie in Life After Paralysis on July 18, 2022 # Lifestyle, Courage

Two months ago, May 31, 2022, marked 12 years since breaking my neck and becoming a C4 quadriplegic. That’s 4,426 days of being paralyzed and having to rely on others for help daily. The first few years after my injury was tough. It was a day I did not look forward to, and I wished I could go back and change what happened. All I thought about was why I went to the beach that day or if only I didn’t go into the water that one last time, I would never be in this lifelong situation. After a few years, I decided to view my anniversary day differently. Instead of regret and feeling sorry for myself, I viewed it as a day of celebration of life.

I should have drowned the day of my accident, but God had a different plan for me. He used one of my best friends who was with me that day to pull me out of the water and save my life. If I was not with my friend that day, I would not be here writing this blog. Now my anniversary is a day of continued life, despite having to live with a spinal cord injury and all the difficulties that come with it. My family and I are grateful that we can celebrate my life together instead of them visiting my gravestone every May 31.

I am a completely different person than when my accident first happened. I have learned so much these past 12 years. One of the many things I have learned over the years is the meaning and importance of suffering. Many people view suffering as something bad happening to them. Suffering doesn’t feel good in the moment, but there are lessons and growth in hard times. I believe hard times create strong people. Instead of viewing suffering as “why” is this happening to me, I changed my perspective and asked myself, “what” can I learn from this experience? I have grown so much in my faith since my injury, and God has turned my tragedy into triumph. He has used everything I have gone through to help and inspire others. It made me realize that I am not strong enough to do this on my own and that I need God in my life.

In the bible, it talks about how suffering produces perseverance and that we should glory in our sufferings because it makes us a stronger person. Two of my favorite verses are Romans 5: 3-5 and James 1: 2-4. Both verses talk about suffering and how hard times are good for us. Suffering isn’t fun, but it isn’t forever and for nothing. When we can find meaning in our suffering, it makes it easier to go through. Everyone has their own experiences with dark and hard times, but it is something we can all relate to. Know that you are not alone.

Lately, I have been struggling mentally with myself and feeling like I want more for my life. I’m also tired of being in a wheelchair and having to rely on other people. I try my best to stay strong, but strong people have a breaking point too. The important thing is that we don’t give up and lose hope. What makes the strong stand out is that in those hard and difficult moments, we decided to continue fighting and build ourselves back up. Life as an able-bodied person is hard enough, then add in an SCI, and it can feel hopeless. I believe happiness is a choice, not a result, even though at times I tell myself, “If I just had this,” I would be happy. Life is an attitude. When you change your perspective and thinking, it can literally change your life.

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.