Interview with SCI Dad

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on August 24, 2022 # Lifestyle

My name is Adron Collie, married for 30 years to Amber Collie, father to Zack Collie, who sustained a spinal cord injury and is now a C-4 Quadriplegic. We have four children. Zack (27), Levi (25), Kaden (19) and Laila (17). If you choose to be positive in your mind, your life will be positive.

Where were you when you heard the news about your son’s beach accident, leaving him a quadriplegic?

I was at a backyard BBQ on Memorial Day in our neighborhood. We live in Orange County, Southern California. Zack had gone to the beach with his best friend Travis. Amber checked her phone and had a voice message – Zack had hit his head and was in the emergency room. We rushed to drop our other kids off at my parents’ house and then raced down to Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, CA. I knew this was a dire situation. Zack was a tough kid, and we wouldn’t be getting called down there unless it was serious. While driving, Amber called Travis, and she asked what had happened. This was when we heard the words, “Zack’s not moving.” I remember looking at Amber and started trying to prepare her verbally for what we were walking into. You know when you get that surreal feeling – time slows down when something tragic is happening.

How did you feel when you first saw your son in the emergency room?

I remember when the doctor sat us down and told us that Zack had broken his neck and that he was paralyzed. I got an instant head rush and felt like I was falling through space. I heard a popping sound in my ears. I needed air and was literally given oxygen by a nurse. When they led us to see him, he was lying on a gurney, motionless but awake. There was sand all over the floor and his body since he was dragged out of the ocean and onto the sand by his arms. I noticed his swim trunks were cut off and I could see his bare butt not fully covered by the sheet. It’s weird what thoughts go through your head during traumatic situations.

The first thing he said to me was, “I’m sorry, Dad.” My kid was apologizing to me for breaking his neck. I gave him a hug and said he didn’t do anything wrong. This was an accident! No one is to blame. Zack never cried, he never complained or felt sorry for himself – and if he did, I never saw it. I asked him later in the hospital why he wasn’t sad or depressed. He said he couldn’t afford to think like that. That was mature wisdom coming from a 15-year-old! Before the injury, Zack was an average teen who did the bare minimum and just wanted to have fun, and I don’t know how he reacted so wisely. I felt a huge relief seeing him alive and being able to still talk to him. I had no concept of how extensive his injury was. We knew nothing about spinal cord injuries. I expected him to walk out of there. I still believe I will see him walk again.

How did you get through those first few months?

Those months are a blur. Amber was staying with Zack in the rehabilitation hospital. I was at home taking care of the other kids and working still. Honestly, God got me through the most; without my faith, I don’t know how I would have survived. God provided for all our needs. Through the generous support of family, friends, and strangers. This gave me hope and courage to face this unimaginable accident.

What have you learned now, over a decade later?

I have learned that nothing is impossible and that pain causes growth (if you allow yourself to grow). Looking back after more than a decade, I can see an awful situation turn into something beautiful. I see my son achieving a master’s degree in college. He has an apartment with a live-in caregiver, drives an adaptive vehicle, and has a YouTube channel (Zack Collie) about life as a quadriplegic. I see him succeeding in life more than some able-bodied men his age. He is taking the bull by the horns every day. He amazes me, I’m so proud of who he has become. Zack recently received an award from a US Senator for being a person who inspires others.

What advice would you give a new family going through a similar situation?

Breathe. It’s going to be OK. You will get through this. There are support groups and resources. Hold onto hope and focus on what you do have, one step at a time. Never give up!

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.