​Growth Following my SCI

Posted by Zack Collie in Life After Paralysis on September 30, 2022 # Lifestyle, SCI Awareness

Zack after his injury At the age of 15, I sustained a spinal cord injury. On Memorial Day 2010, I dove into a wave at the beach, hitting a sandbar headfirst and instantly losing all function in my body. Growing up in Southern California, going to the beach and diving into waves is something I grew up doing. Unfortunately, I happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. After learning the severity of my injury, I felt hopeless and lost about my future. In one moment, I went from being an independent teenager to now living in a paralyzed body. Life as I knew it was over. One moment I was fine and independent, and the next, I was completely dependent on others for survival. Learning to live in a body that no longer works is no easy task. Many people believe after becoming paralyzed; their life is over. However, that is not always the truth. A lot of individuals living with a spinal cord injury are happy. A person can be paralyzed and still have a successful and meaningful life. I know for me; my injury gave my life purpose.

My injury has taught me so much in life. I have grown and matured in ways I never would have had if I never broke my neck. Although I don’t enjoy living in a body that no longer works, I had to decide early on whether I was going to fight and create a life for myself or give up and feel sorry about my life. I chose to live and have never looked back.

Zack and Sedona

One of the areas I have been fascinated about following traumatic injuries is how post-traumatic growth helps a person overcome the extreme loss. Not everyone who experiences extreme hardships benefits from post-traumatic growth. I don’t think many people understand how strong we really are. It wasn’t until I was truly tested that I realized my true strength. My injury showed me that we can be more than what we are. It’s unfortunate that it took breaking my neck for me to realize my full potential, but I’m grateful to know when I think I am pushed to my limit, I can still keep going. My injury taught me never to give up, even when I had a good reason to. It’s funny how life works out sometimes. Sometimes something happens, or a door is closed so a greater opportunity can present itself.

I felt the most loss I have ever experienced in my life following my injury, yet because of it. I have gone on to achieve more than I thought I ever would. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be the first in my family to get a college degree. The growth I have acquired because of my injury has helped me get to where I am today. If I had not decided to fight and create a future for myself 12 years ago after that fateful day. I would not have experienced the post-traumatic growth that has changed my life. I’ve realized that no matter what happens to you (good or bad), there is always a takeaway. I can’t imagine going back to my old life anymore. I love the life I have and the person I have become. Never put a limit on yourself. When I was in high school, one of my teachers said something that I have never forgotten. Improvise, adapt and overcome. Those three words have never left my mind.

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.