Moving out as a c-4 quadriplegic

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on November 11, 2019 # Mobility, Relationships, Lifestyle

by guest writer Zack Collie

As a child, I always had a lot of energy. I was very active and constantly going from one thing to the next. Staying busy was important to me, and I felt like if I was not doing anything I was wasting time. I was the type of child that would have had his bags packed by the front door ready to move out on his 18th birthday. That may have been the case until my accident happened in 2010, at the age of 15. My life completely changed after my injury and all the independence I had was gone. I was now fully dependent on others to help me with simple everyday tasks such as dressing myself, putting on my shoes, making food, getting a glass of water, doing my hair, brushing my teeth, and showering. The list goes on. All of these things I took for granted before my accident happened.

After my injury, I felt lost and hopeless about my future. One of my biggest worries was the thought that I would have to live with my parents for the rest of my life because I could not do anything on my own. Even if I could move out, how could I afford a place to live and pay a caregiver to get me up and dressed and put me to bed every day. I did not work, had no savings, and no independence. The odds seemed so against me. As these thoughts and many others were running through my head I started to believe them. I was frustrated and hurt at the idea that I would have to rely on other people to help me with almost everything forever, or at least that is what I thought.

When I first thought about the idea of moving out, my biggest concern was money. It can be extremely expensive paying a caregiver for constant care plus all of the expenses that come with having a place of your own. The thought of this was very discouraging for me, so it was not something that seemed realistic. Another worry was that the place I would live would have to be accessible and accommodating to my disability. I did not know any apartment complexes that would have a roll-in shower, widened doorways, and a way for me to independently open and close my front door.

Zack and his fiancéIn October of 2018, eight years after my injury, I officially moved out of my parent's house and into an apartment with my girlfriend at the time (now fiancé!). My fiancé and I have been living together a little over a year on our own, and it has been truly life-changing. Living in an apartment and not always being surrounded by my family and having help has forced me to figure out how to do more things on my own. Being forced to figure things out by myself has allowed me to acquire the independence I have now.

Moving out of my parent's house at 24 instead of 18 was something I never expected to happen. After everything I have gone through, I now understand that life does not always go as planned. There are certain times in our lives when cards are thrown at us that we do not want. Life has a funny way of doing that, and sometimes we have no control over what we are dealt. However, I believe we have control over how we react to those situations. I was devastated when I truly grasped the reality of sustaining a spinal cord injury and what that meant. I could not imagine the idea of me having a place of my own and living independently. But I did not lose hope. I decided to fight and only go forward even if they were baby steps. Moving out did not happen when I wanted it to, but I eventually figured it out and made it happen. One of my proudest accomplishments, being a C-4 quadriplegic, is living on my own and continuing to be as independent as I can every day.

In the nine years, I had my spinal cord injury, if someone told me when I was first injured that I would go on to graduating from college, getting into a master's program, get engaged, and be living on my own I would have laughed. It can be extremely overwhelming not knowing how our future is going to look. A lot of the things that I thought were not possible in the beginning of my injury I have been able to figure out. Everything for me happened at the right time, and it took a lot of patience. I encourage anyone reading this to not lose hope and continue pushing forward. Reaching my goal of moving out as a c-4 quadriplegic took a long time. It does not matter how slow you go as long as you keep moving forward.

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.