Slow and Steady

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on September 28, 2022 # Lifestyle

When I was younger, I had my own ideas of how I wanted things to be; I was more scheduled and always busy. I didn’t like it when my plans changed suddenly, or I didn’t get done everything on my to do list. That all changed in a day. Recently, I was reflecting to that day, when my oldest son Zack, age 15 at the time, broke his neck in a beach accident, becoming a quadriplegic. I will never forget that out-of-body surreal feeling that this could not be happening. At that moment, everything seemed to slow down. I was trying to wrap my head around what I was being told. Then the wave of intense relief came when the doctors told me my boy was still alive. This feeling of relief was then replaced with a powerful determination that we would beat this, whatever that looked like.

In those early hospital days, I quickly learned the art of one day at a time, or even just one task at a time. Anything over that felt completely overwhelming. Now, even 12 years post-injury, my life can still feel like a roller coaster ride. I have been forced to become flexible. There are seasons of life where I am my son’s full-time caregiver and then seasons where he lives with a caregiver independently. Currently, he is living in his apartment Monday-Friday and home with me on weekends, yet I know this can change quickly. Even good caregivers come and go. I was talking with Kaden, one of my younger sons (Zack has 2 younger brothers and 1 younger sister), the other day about college; this is his 1st semester. I heard myself give him the advice of slow and steady. I used his older brother Zack as an example. I reminded Kaden that it took Zack 5 years to complete his 4-year degree, and that is fine, he did it. Zack went on to enroll into a master’s program and now is only one semester away from graduation. There were semesters he took only 2 classes, but he kept moving forward.

It really does not matter how slow you go, just don’t stop, do not give up. Do one class if that’s all you can handle. Sometimes just signing up and getting a feel for college is what you need to motivate yourself. This is the same for exercise or other challenging situations. The old saying, “put one foot in front of the other” is a saying for a good reason. After a slow and steady, consistent pace, a decade has flown by. Zack will graduate in spring with a master’s degree in counseling, ready to give back, earn money and continue to build a future for himself. He has learned a lot during his schooling. By going through the counseling program, it has been like consistent therapy of his own.

Zack recently was given an award at his university, given to him by Senator Josh Newman. In his words, “Zack Collie exemplifies leadership, mentorship, and perseverance in his service to our community, particularly as a role model to others with spinal cord injuries. As a proud California State University Fullerton Titan, Zack is studying to become a licensed counselor, focused on serving patients with life-changing injuries. In honor of Disability Pride Month, we are proud to announce Zack as our Citizen of the Month.” This is a wonderful example of what you can achieve if you just start. Then move at your own pace, which could be fast, or slow and steady.

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.