​Parent of a Quadriplegic

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on April 21, 2021 # Lifestyle

Zack laying in hospital bedWhat do you do when life, as you know it, gets flipped upside down and changes it forever? Many people have experienced tragedies. Tragedies come in all sorts of stories. My life jolted one Memorial Day weekend at a backyard BBQ. My two younger children were swimming in the pool. I had just got out of the pool, dried off and went to eat. I checked my cell phone. There was a missed call. Oddly, I paused for a moment before I listened to the message. I considered waiting until after the party, but I hit the button. There it played, the message that changed our life. Taking us all down a path I never thought was possible. "Amber, there's been an accident. Zack is at Hoag hospital (Newport Beach, California)." This blog is not about telling Zack's story about how he became paralyzed. That story has a short and long version. The shorter version is at 15; Zack broke his neck diving into a wave and hitting a sandbar at the beach, becoming a C-4 Quadriplegic.

My life is now defined by before and after Zack's injury. Before the injury, I was a mother of 4 children, running a small photography business. My kids attended Pre-K, Elementary, Junior High and High school. My photography business was pretty darn busy, but my biggest problem in life at that time was probably hoping not to forget one of my kid's pick-up times.

Now, I have had my share of tough times before this, don't get me wrong. In just one summer when I was a teen, my house burned down, I moved three times, my parents divorced, I changed schools, and my dog was hit by a car. I worked a job sometimes two all through high school and moved out on my own when I was 17. I married young, had Zack, my first child at the age of 22, my second son at 24 and by age 32, I had my four wonderful kids. Unfortunately, I experienced multiple deaths, nine of close loved ones. Those deaths were hard.

One of the huge things that help push me forward and keep going is having my boy survive an injury like this. I am dedicated to helping my son still have a good life despite the hand he was dealt. Something that helped my grief was one day I thought, why am I more upset than my son is about this injury? He is the one in a wheelchair. Being a mother of four and a full-time caregiver to Zack is not for the weak, but I didn't need to keep torturing myself. Zack had been able to get past it. He accepted his fate, so why couldn't I?

black and white photo of Zack in wheelchair in front of ocean with the word "Persevere" written on the top rightAs moms, we want the best for our kids. This was not what I wanted, but I practice, thinking about the things I have control over and the things I do not. There are things in life that are just what they are. You can either accept them or stay tormenting yourself. Acceptance, Forgiveness and Perseverance are keywords to having a positive mindset. I'm not the same person I was before Zack's injury at age 38. I was swept up into the paralyzed world and boy did I know absolutely nothing! I now have a decade of knowledge still learning new things. I've found others in this world that know exactly how I feel, so I know I'm not alone. Zack and I have set many goals. We celebrate those goals when they are achieved. This life has been hard, but it has also been hugely rewarding. So, what do you do when life has different plans for you? Let yourself feel the pain, process the grief, know that you are not alone, accept what you cannot change and absolutely focus intently on the good stuff. For example, I can still hug my son, he can still laugh and have a good life and those good things will grow.

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.