Quadmoms Supermoms

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on July 15, 2020 # Caregiving

I can remember being at the rehab hospital with my son Zack, a newly paralyzed C-4 quadriplegic. Almost everyone in there seemed to be 60 years old or older. Zack was only 15 and it had only been 2 weeks since he broke his neck at the beach. As his mom, I was in shock but oddly strong for him. I don’t think he understood at this point that this was a lifelong injury. It was a living nightmare. Radical emotions ran through my brain constantly, disbelief, fear, anxiety, and devastating sadness. My heart literally broke over and over watching him now unable to do even the smallest of things. I was scratching an itch on his face while he tried quickly to tell me where it’s uncomfortable. I was feeding my teenage boy. I watched as the nurses put Zack in a Hoyer lift moving him into the bathroom, lowering him down to the toilet, how he cannot even wipe his own butt. I wondered what he was thinking. They were trying to teach me, but I couldn’t take it all in, as it was way too overwhelming. They bathed him on a large moving gurney like bed that went into a very large shower room. He was lying completely naked and motionless as a nurse soaped him up and rinsed him off. Back at the room I watched as they dressed him. He had already lost about 30lbs and he looked weak instead of the 170 lbs. freshman who was moving, walking, running & joking around just two weeks ago. He is my oldest child with 3 younger siblings who were used to his big smile, jokes, and teasing.

I can remember physical therapy. That was where our minds were the most focused. In the beginning of an injury of this magnitude. It was all about getting movement back. I was devastated but full of hope that this was not it. Zack was young and healthy, and I wasn’t listening to what the Dr.’s were saying. How could my son be paralyzed? I knew nothing about spinal cord injuries or wheelchairs. This was all so crazy. I was in way over my head. I could hardly stand it. I had to walk away many times to fight back the tears that were about to come pouring out! Occupational therapy was harder than physical because of what he was doing. Watching him try and hold a cup in his hand, a toothbrush or fork was painful. Things we don’t even think about were now the main goal. All I could think of is this is not real. Zack would be fine, he will stand up any minute, and we will walk out of here.

They offered a support group that Zack showed up to. There were introductions and then they formed a circle and the guy leading told his story. He was inspirational, kind and had a positive attitude, but all I could see was his wheelchair, he’s still in that wheelchair. It’s been 15 years he said. This guy was nice but it’s not going to be my son. I left the room and looked back through the window asking myself why is my 15-year-old sitting in that used-looking wheelchair amongst a bunch of other older people in wheelchairs? The scene was awful to me. I realized everyone was trying to help us, but I didn’t want to be there, I didn’t want to know these guys.

Out in the real world outside the hospital, life was going on as normal, but I knew the news of Zack had traveled fast. I found out we had visitors (again), I was not in the mood to explain, update or entertain but I went to see who it was. No one I recognized but I saw a boy who was about Zacks age in a wheelchair near a woman about mine. This was my game changer. I ended up meeting 3 moms and sons who got it. They had been in my shoes, they were 3 years post injury, ahead of me and full of knowledge and information. It was pretty much an instant connection and I learned so much from them and followed their lead. They were life savers to Zack and me.the quadmoms

I cry, laugh, call and text these 3 moms even 10 years later! We call ourselves the Quadmoms. We are part of a unique special club that none of us want to be in, but through this journey have found our new normal and smiles again. We watch our sons beat the odds and fight hard for a good life beyond paralysis.

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.