Engaged! | Amber Collie

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on August 27, 2019 # Relationships

After my son Zack was paralyzed in a beach accident, there were many emotions, thoughts, concerns, and questions – one being future relationships. Zack turned 16 the week he was released from the hospital, just entering the full-blown teen years. The transition with this injury kept us extremely busy for the next two years. After high school graduation was college, another four years went by. There were friends made during this time, but no romantic relationships. Getting out was hard because he didn't drive. I did my best to keep in mind his age, so he could experience as much normal teenage stuff as he possibly could. This was important to me because it’s part of growing and maturing. So, this meant being willing to drive him and pick him up - sometimes very late - and still put him to bed. Around age 21, now legally able to get into bars, he went out a bit more. I became his designated driver. I had mixed feelings about this season at first, but I figured it was better off that he was drinking safely. It wasn't all about the drinking. Zack is an extrovert and needed the social part. Plus, he was creating memories - some pretty funny as well.

At some point on his own he decided to date. I wanted Zack to feel and have as much independence in this area as possible. The last thing he wanted was his “mother” involved in his love life! He did online dating. Everything was new to us. I remember when he had his first date. I felt nervous for him. How will this work? Who drives? He can't open the door for her, he has to order food that he can eat on his own, he can’t get his wallet out himself, etc... Mistakes were definitely made. Zack had set it up to meet at our house but meeting someone for the first time and then having to show them how to drive his wheelchair van was way too much! Our family was used to the wheelchair world but the second I saw her face I realized what a huge mistake we had made. Too much happened too fast. She was gracious, but after the date was never seen again. We did figure out a much better system moving forward, however. Zack would set up to meet somewhere, I would drop him off early so he could already be there, then I would pick him up after the date ended and she had already left. A few times the gal wanted to wait with him, even though he insisted she didn't have too.

Zack had good and bad dates, many one-time dates only but it gave Zack experience in getting out and talking to people. He had a few short-term relationships: one was a mutual break up, one he broke off, and the other he was the one who was broken off. The dating thing was hard to watch sometimes, but I felt it was a valuable life lesson. I don't think Zack was looking seriously at the time Bree entered his life. He was open, but not desperate. They met on Instagram. It took a few tries to get ahold of each other and Bree lived an hour away. I remember the day Bree showed up on our front door - pretty and tall. Zack is six foot. when standing and she is about the same height. Off they went for sushi. I heard later that they talked openly as if they'd known each other for years. Bree drove out here, would switch cars and they would go out.

I was surprised she was willing to drive that far. It was so nice to see Zack getting out. They just seemed to hit it off. Bree seemed very comfortable with the wheelchair and jumped in and learned what she could and even found a girlfriends and wives of SCI (WAGS) club. She went to a couple of large fundraisers with Zack for SCI awareness. She has really opted in. They have become quite the cute couple. For Zack’s college graduation she was there and went with him to Kauai for his graduation gift!

They have been together a year and a half. On July 13, 2019, Zack asked her to be his wife, and she said Yes!

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.