​Alone at the Beach

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on August 10, 2021 # Lifestyle

Relaxing at the BeachI finally did it. I took a day off and went to the beach, alone. I have wanted to do this for a while. My life doesn't seem to slow down, so I knew I just had to make it happen. As a full-time caregiver to my quadriplegic son, I've learned to take advantage of the moments in between duties for myself, not wait until I have a longer time slot. That has helped me accept that this is my life right now. I have witnessed how seasons of life constantly change.

My son Zack was injured at the beach in 2010 when he was 15 years old. He went to dive into an oncoming wave and hit a sandbar, breaking his neck and paralyzing him. I was his full-time caregiver for the first eight years and took care of his 3 younger siblings. Zack moved out for 2 years using hired caregivers. During this time, I could recharge and do some things I'd put off for years, but again life likes to make waves, and I still found myself busy just with different types of things. This confirms for me I just have to take the time to do fun things, not wait around for some miraculous duty-free day off!

I went through a period of time that I did not like the ocean. I avoided the beach, and it no longer seemed like a vacation destination. Beaches usually are one of the most popular spots to take some time off. I was the mom who took all her kids to the beach in the summer, sometimes

2-3 times a week since they were babies. After Zack's accident, I would intentionally turn my head so I didn't have to look at the water when I'd drive by. I couldn't stand the sight of it. I didn't want to hear the waves. They were not soothing anymore. To me, they were the cause of my son's life-altering accident, and I hated the beach.

I kept it to myself because I thought it was a bit irrational, yet I was Zack's mom. I needed something to blame. I needed to process, and I needed time. During this processing of my displaced anger, my second son, Levi, decided to take up surfing. Yep. Surfing. Of all the sports or hobbies, he chose surfing. He didn't just like surfing. It became part of who he is. To this day, if he's not in or near the ocean for too long, he becomes down. I couldn't stop him from surfing; it's his life.

I remember friends talking to me about going on a girl's getaway or a day at the beach. I always said no thanks too. I'm not sure how long this attitude lasted. I know that it ended with a light bulb-type moment when I simply thought why am I mad at the ocean one day? It was an accident, and accidents happen. Zack was making a new life for himself, and he wasn't angry at the beach or blaming the ocean for his injury in any way, shape, or form. In fact, he wanted to go back. He missed the beach. I thought to myself, how can I be more mad than Zack is when he is the one paralyzed. Zack's my boy. I hate seeing him struggle with simple daily tasks. This was not something I had any control over, but I did have control over my thoughts and my own actions, and I realized how silly and waste of time, energy feeling angry at something that does not care one bit about how I feel. So, I stopped. I simply decided in one moment to give it up. I have a healthy fear and respect now for the ocean, and it still took a few times going back for me to completely relax. There are just too many other hard things in life to make a big deal over this. Zack's first time back in the ocean was a bittersweet moment, but he did it with a smile. Later he participated in adaptive surfing.

He also visited the exact place his accident took place on the recent 11 year anniversary of his injury. I felt a twinge of pain with each of these but thought how strong my son is, how he has chosen to move forward and not get stuck. Why lose more than he's already lost. My latest beach visit destination, Hawaii totally relaxed, enjoying the sound of the waves again, Aloha.

My life has had many parts, I could write a book just on that section but let's fast forward to when I married Adron Collie. Two weeks after turning 20 (yes, very young!) I had Zackery at age 22, Levi at 24, six years later Kaden, and 18 months after that daughter Laila, making me a busy mother of four. At that time, I also ran a photography business. The year Zack was injured I had a child in Preschool, Elementary, Jr. High and High School. Four kids in four schools! I thought I was so busy, just getting their drop-off and pick-up times correct was a challenge. I have to laugh now thinking back on that because little did I know my life was just about to turn upside down.

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.