Positive Mindset Equals Achievements

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on November 01, 2022 # Lifestyle

What kinds of thoughts run through your head daily? Are they negative or positive? I hear people talk about positive mindsets a lot, yet it feels impossible to just think positively when you are hurting. There is a grieving process before we can heal from a tragic event. I know how it feels when the world as I knew it abruptly stops and is never the same. In time, I would reference before and after (the accident) when I spoke about my life.

In 2010 I was 38 years old. That year my 4 kids were at 4 different schools preschool, elementary, junior high and high school. I ran a photography business. My life was full, and overwhelming at times. Reflecting now, I did not know the level of feeling overwhelmed could go so much higher after what was about to happen. I received a phone call on Memorial Day that changed my life forever. My son Zack was in the emergency room. He had gone to the beach with his best friend earlier that morning. I was told Zack could not move. What did they mean? I thought Zack must have hit his head while swimming in the ocean waves. After all, he was a 15-year-old boy, full of energy and liked to have fun. He was naturally athletic and extroverted, always up for doing something. In my mind, I thought he must have hit his head and had stitches, but what did they mean he can’t move? I soon found out exactly what they meant. It was exactly what I heard – that my boy could not move. He was paralyzed after running into the ocean, diving under a wave and hitting his head on a sandbar, instantly breaking his neck. The diagnosis was quadriplegic.

How do I sum up a dozen years? The first few years were extremely busy, survival mode, finishing high school and lots of physical therapies. Around 5 years in, there was the next level of acceptance. New goals and accomplishments; keep moving forward. Throw in the Covid-19 years, the chaos, and sadly some deaths plus physical and mental health issues in our family.

We are now in Zack’s 12th year post-injury. Zack chooses to have a positive mind. Instead of dwelling on what he lost, he focuses his energy on what he can accomplish and how to make a good life for himself. For Zack, it was almost an immediate acceptance of his spinal cord injury, which I mistook for shock in the beginning. Still, he did just that, he accepted his diagnosis and chose to move forward and not get stuck, feel sad or sorry for himself. Zack’s positive mental attitude helped me come alongside him a little easier and helped him find new adaptive ways to live daily life with his physical needs.

We focused on education, knowing his physical strength was taken away from him. Zack graduated from his high school class on time with his peers and friends. He even walked with a walker and the help of two physical therapists and stood to receive his diploma. He was accepted into a 4-year college, went on to live on campus (with the help of a full-time caregiver) and completed his bachelor’s degree, graduating 5 years later. Slow but steady. He is now in his last semester of a master’s degree in counseling. Zack drives an adaptive vehicle fitted for a C-4 Quadriplegic. He has an apartment and lives with a caregiver independently. He was engaged for a couple of years and even though that did not work out, he had the life experience. Zack started a YouTube channel named “Quad Life with Zack” (Zack Collie), making videos for awareness and to educate people on SCI. He has inspired many people.

I asked him once, "How have you kept such a positive mindset through all these extremely hard years?” He replied, “I couldn’t afford not to.”

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, junior 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.