​Life After Paralysis Some Cases Better Than Before?

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on April 26, 2022 # Lifestyle

Zack CollieHow could life possibly be better paralyzed? How could anyone even say such a thing? A life-altering accident that leaves you unable to move and function as you have always done. A spinal cord injury affects every aspect of your life and the ones around you. Every person who has suffered from an SCI has a story. Most stories are devastating; really, they all are. The life you once knew is gone forever, and you are left being forced to accept a fate you cannot believe has happened to you. There is hope. There is life after an SCI, and some people even say their life is better than before. I’m not saying everyone, but some.

My son Zack says that when I heard him say that for the first time, I thought I must have misunderstood him. How could a teenage boy think his life better paralyzed? He explained how he had no direction, no interest or intention of going to college after high school before his injury. Zack was a mediocre student and did as little as possible to barely pass. He had no goals for the future. Yes, he was young, we will never know how his life could have been, but his reality was he broke his neck at age 15 in a beach accident. He was robbed of many regular life experiences. As his mom, it pained me to even think about these things. There were so many. What intrigued me was the fact my son had created a mindset that focused on the things he still could do and not on his injury and what he lost. He chooses to think of the things he has accomplished after he was injured.

Zack Collie and familyIt took me much longer to get on board with this type of thinking. I wanted to be angry at someone, and the hurt was hard to bear. The daily caregiving was exhausting. It feels like you are on an emotional roller coaster constantly. I thought this through, and my thinking kept me sad and angry, so I have since adopted a similar thought process. I am not saying it’s not painful or this thinking is easy to do, to be very clear. I still have times when I feel angry or deeply saddened that this happened to my boy, but life does go on whether you accept your fate or fight it. You can waste away your life wishing for the old way or decide to make the best life possible on a new path. This is exactly what Zack did.

I remember thinking one day, why am I more upset than my son is? He is the one in the wheelchair; if he can do this new life with a positive attitude and smile, then surely, I can too. I admit, Zack made this choice look easy; he still does. It is by no means easy, but possible. I must re-choose my thinking often. I’m aware that Zack’s accomplishments could all have still happened, not injured. He could have graduated from high school and chosen college. In fact, college is not for everyone. This was more about his mindset. I helped him, and he helped me.

Zack CollieHis accomplishments after his SCI make me feel proud. Zack “walked” at his high school graduation in a walker with help from 2 physical therapists, showing his class and spectators not to give up. We found a college scholarship program that helps injured athletes go to a college called (SWIM WITH MIKE) and Zack got his bachelor’s degree in Human Services and has now almost completed his master’s degree in counseling. He is currently interning at an all-boys military school. Through the Department of Rehabilitation, Zack was able to learn to drive. He was able to move out and live on his college campus and then to an apartment of his own with his caregiver's help. Zack was engaged for a couple of years, learning how to be in a serious relationship. One accomplishment that I know is helping others is his YouTube channel short videos on daily living, and life as a quadriplegic. We’ll never know what his life could have been, and it does not matter to Zack to him. That is the past it’s only part of his story. He is much more focused on the present and future.

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.