​Interview with a Quadriplegic's Sister

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on February 04, 2022 # Lifestyle

Zack's sister at a coffee shopI wanted to interview my now 17-year-old daughter, who grew up with 3 older brothers. Her oldest brother Zack was paralyzed in a beach accident.

A few questions I asked her…

  • How old were you when your brother was injured? How did you feel?
  • Do you have any memories from before your brother's injury?
  • What do you remember from the day of your brother's accident?
  • Any memories from the first couple of months, hospital visits, etc.?
  • How has the injury changed your relationship with your brother or other family members, either positively or negatively?
  • What have you learned from this life experience?

I don't remember much before the injury; unlike my other brothers Levi (13) and Kaden (7), I was only 5 years old. Zack was 15 when he broke his neck in a beach accident, and he is 10 years older than me. I have vague memories of playful wrestling on the couches, Zack teasing me and always up for fun. Our family would go out to the desert and ride dirt bikes, I'd ride the quad bike sitting on the front and Zack would ride me around camp and let me steer, but most of my memories are from photos or after Zack in a wheelchair.

Zack laying in a hospital bed with his family around himSince I was so little when the accident happened, I can't really recall how I felt that day. I was mostly confused and unsure. I didn't know what was going on and couldn't fully grasp the reality with my young brain. The main event I remember was being at a BBQ and swimming in the pool with my other brother Kaden who is only a year older than me; then, my parents got the call. I remember being rushed out of the water and being forced to leave even though I didn't want to.

The next thing I know, I'm at my grandma's house. She's kept us occupied with games and stuff while my parents were away. The hospital and physical therapy visits are the most vivid in my mind from that time. I remember driving far to see my brother at his rehab hospital. My mom was gone, staying at the hospital day and night for months. I guess she came home only a few times. We mostly saw her when we visited the hospital.

I was occupied with school, but I still remember the visits. We would go see Zack in his room, and my mom would walk us to get food in the cafeteria. I specifically remember getting banana pudding and taking some back to give to Zack. I can remember climbing up on his bed and feeding him while he lay there, and I just wanted him to be okay. I'd pray a lot when I would get home. It's still a blur, but I know I was happy when Zack and my mom were able to come home permanently. I was little and couldn't do much, but I tried to help as much as I could, handing him things, giving him lots of hugs.

Zack using a wheelchair and smilingWhen he started physical therapy, it was summer, my mom would bring me and my brother Kaden so we could play together, and she wouldn't have to worry about us being at home. We would swim in the outside pool and get snacks from the small cafe. I must be honest, I do the least amount of personal care for him, mainly because I'm a girl and he's a guy, 10 years older than me. I've observed a lot as I've grown up with a quadriplegic brother and have watched Zack adapt. It's a lot of added responsibilities and stress for everyone in the family, and our relationships have changed. In the beginning, it was hard adjusting to the new life we all had. We just wanted Zack to be able to still live as best as he could. It's hard to work on your own life, though, when you constantly have his care on your mind. There is a lot of mixed emotions and feeling; for example, you're tired of taking care of his needs, being interrupted all the time, but know he doesn't want to have to ask you for everything either, so it can get frustrating at times for both sides.

Collie familyUltimately, our family has grown closer as a result, and that has created a bond between all of us, I think. Our family is different from others, it's true, yet it doesn't feel that way because this is our normal that we have become used to. I remember being in seventh grade, and Zack spoke at an assembly at my Jr. High school when it was over; for the next few days, lots of peers and teachers would say to me, "wow, you're Zack's sister!" or "Zack is So inspiring!" For that age group, it was a tiny taste of fame. Zack is now popular on YouTube showing videos of daily life as a quadriplegic. I watched my brother handle a huge life challenge, accept it and adapt. When I was 11, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and I feel like I followed his lead; at least, that is what everyone tells me.

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.