​BBQs to Sky Diving

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on June 14, 2022 # Lifestyle

BBQSummer is almost here…What can a Quadriplegic do? My son Zack broke his neck in 2010 in a beach accident, instantly becoming paralyzed. But, 12 years post-injury now, here are some fun things that Zack has been able to enjoy…

In our experience, having a simple BBQ can lift our spirits. All the planning of the menu, preparing the meat, and making delicious side dishes, make the day fun. We like to look up new recipes online or simply buy premade sides at the grocery store. Hanging up white lights outside and or lighting some candles can add a relaxing ambiance. Put on some soothing or upbeat music. Have family and friends gather, and ask them to bring food to share. The smell of BBQ meat cooking puts us in a better mood and feels like a day off. There are board games or card games that Zack can participate in, sometimes by having a partner or making teams.

BBQWe live in Southern California, about half an hour from LA, so Comedy Clubs and Music Concerts are very popular. Zack will purchase wheelchair seating if available or buy regular seating if not; then, once at the venue, they re-seat him. This has worked so far at all locations he’s tried. If you can’t get to a live show, Good ole YouTube has a lot of stand-up comedy and live concerts recorded.

Sports Events are wheelchair accessible. Zack is a football, hockey and UFC fan. When he was first injured, he was not interested in these sports. I remember encouraging him to look up different sports and the rules and try to understand the games. He was not interested. It wasn’t until years later, when a friend took him to an Anaheim Ducks Hockey game, that he became a fan. This was the case with Football and now UFC. This has opened opportunities and allowed conversations with people, when you have sports in common. Zack collects some UFC trading cards as a hobby. He can talk about boxing & UFC fighting with his weekly physical therapists during their workout sessions. He goes out to pizza parlors, sports bars, friends' houses that show the games, or he watches at home.

Zack CollieZack’s injury happened in Newport Beach, California. It took me a few years to go back to the beach, but finally, the sound of crashing waves, is relaxing again. If Zack is okay with going to the beach, then I can be too. The wheelchair works fine on the boardwalks or piers. The sand is more of an issue, but we found a few beaches with wheelchair assessability. Near us in Orange County is Huntington Beach it has a paved pathway through the sand to the water and fire pits. Laguna Beach has a curved walkway through the Main Beach, with lots of shops and restaurants. Doheny Beach has a wood path, covered gazebo to the sand, snack shop, grass area and BBQs. There is historical Crystal Cove Beach with the Beachcomber restaurant right on the sand; great food and is also accessible.

We have visited all Amusement parks in our area Disneyland, California Adventure, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Universal Studios. Zack has been able to go on quite a few rides, even a roller coaster we lifted him onto! There are many different Parks, Zoo’s, Aquariums & Dinner Shows. We go to the movies a lot. Recently, Zack went bowling with friends. He put up the side alley bumpers and used the child’s roller, and was able to bowl his own game. He has tried an Air stimulator (which feels like flying) Zack’s biggest thrill of all was jumping tandem out of an airplane! He fulfilled a huge goal of his, as a quadriplegic when he went skydiving! Enjoy Your Summer.

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.