​Quadriplegic and Mental Health

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on May 09, 2022 # Health

Zack CollieZack, the one who struggled in his physical body, was focused and determined to be positive. In ways, my paralyzed quadriplegic son was doing better than the rest of his family. He was a true inspiration to all of us daily. He lives out what he believes, and he means what he says. When I was growing up, there was no such thing as “mental health awareness” we didn’t talk about those things. I was a teenager in the 80’s kids at school back then clearly had Anxiety, Depression, ADD, ADHD, Autism, and Dyslexia. I knew something was different about these peers, but there were no known terms, no awareness. These were not topics that were outwardly talked about. There were also the kids in wheelchairs, and I never asked why those kids were in wheelchairs; I didn’t even really consider why. In my mind, they just were, and it wasn’t that I didn’t care; I just did not know how to ask the right questions.

The awareness of all these disabilities and more have come so far in 35 years! I’m so glad that the world has evolved. We understand and voice these things now. Even just 12 years ago, when my son dove under that wave at the beach, becoming a C-4 quadriplegic on Memorial Day of 2010, wheelchair awareness was very different. I can remember showing up to places and not being able to get Zack inside the door. In this last decade, we have seen many positive changes regarding ADA regulations. I know there have been people fighting this fight for years. I feel like we were the beneficiaries of their persistent, hard work.

Most places we go in Southern California have wheelchair accessibility. I love seeing folks in wheelchairs or with other disabilities being represented in commercials, TV shows and movies. This awareness of mental health, physical differences, and illness is a positive change, and our family has openly been able to talk about these sometimes-debilitating experiences.

Do I believe that pain and suffering make us better humans? There are days when I’d do anything to have a certain loved one back with me, but I’ve accepted I cannot. Did these losses and hardships make me into the person I am today? Yes. I see how choice is involved in the healing process. You can easily get stuck in the all-consuming sadness and choose to stay. It takes a mental choice to decide to move forward after a tragic loss. I have a new level of understanding, having experienced first-hand these events in my life. I hope to be encouraging and a listening ear to others who also experience pain and loss.

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.