Siblings of SCI | Amber Collie

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on September 10, 2019 # Caregiving, Relationships

Zackery is my oldest of four children. Before the injury, Zack was a typical 15-year-old boy who loved to hang out with friends, be active, and play video games. I can still remember the sound of Zack charging through the front door after school; the door would fly open hitting the wall behind it. I can still hear his hard and loud footsteps; Zack had a unique walk, toe to heel. He literally wore out his shoes in about three months no matter the brand. I can hear him storm down the hallway calling out “I’m home!” then eruptions of “Zaaaaack” coming from his younger siblings. Zack would come in and immediately started poking-fun at them, laughing because he thinks it’s funny. They loved their big brother but not sure they were on the same page with the teasing.

Levi is two and a half years younger, as little children, they played very well together. Zack always the leader and Levi following along. Levi didn't seem to mind Zack always being the boss, but as they got older, things were not as pleasant. I noticed Levi was not as happy with Zack acting in charge. They became night and day and as Levi got older, he was starting to realize he had different opinions and it showed, along with frustrations, at least on Levi’s part. Zack didn't seem to notice these things. He almost seemed surprised when a disagreement happened. Zack was very strong willed, always right and knew what he wanted.

The two younger siblings I refer to as “the littles” because of the age difference. Kaden is eight years younger than Zack. He is quiet; he enjoyed playing with Legos and built the most amazing things. Kaden goes at his own pace, there is no rushing him. Zack is always up for something and quick to move onto the next thing, so they didn't have a lot in common. Laila, his only sister, is ten years younger. Laila is more like Zack, loves to go and do things, active, and artistic. They have the active part in common, but I don't think there is an artsy bone in Zack’s body. He is very practical minded. Siblings are humans thrown together in a family, forced to try to get along. Some click, some don't. At his injury date, Zack was 15, Levi 13, Kaden 7, Laila 5

Zack didn't like school that much but enjoyed the social part of it. I know Zack loved his siblings, I just don’t think he gave the whole family thing much thought, it was more about Zack (like a lot of teenagers).

Memorial Day 2010: Zack breaks his neck at Newport Beach, CA becoming a quadriplegic, he is a freshman in high school. Our lives all changed in that instant. This may be hard to believe but it’s true, Zack handled this injury so well I thought he must be in denial for the first couple years, but nine years later he continues to have a positive, move forward attitude. His current life showing what a good attitude can do in spite of terrible circumstances.

Zack and I lived at the hospital for three months. The family would come visit us, but the distance, traffic and my husband’s work schedule kept the family apart. It was a huge transition we all were processing. The younger ones were going into kindergarten and second grade; they were so young but old enough to understand. Levi was beginning eighth grade, an especially hard age having to deal with a massive change like this. This was their older brother, their leader, that was always on the go. Zack’s injury shifted and has changed the course of all their relationships. They are all close. I remember really having to be intentional on giving the other siblings my attention, watching and listening to them, especially in the early years.

Since this injury dominates time, energy, emotions I was aware that I needed to check in with each child. I also highly recommend not using phrases like “well how do you think your brother feels” or using the injury as a measure. Everyone is different, we all have to process in our own way. I didn't want this injury to cause more damage like frustration, anger or resentment. No one is perfect, everyone needs time to heal. Zack’s strong will ended up being one of his greatest strengths and the kid I’d say had zero patience (the one who is at Disneyland asking me what we are doing next!?) now has the patience of a saint! Zack is level headed, practical, and willing to hear other perspectives. I believe Zack set the tone for the family and since he was still smiling, we followed his lead.