​Strong Willed to Strong Inspiration

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on January 05, 2023 # Lifestyle

Zack and AmberMy oldest son Zackery was not easy to raise. I remember that extremely hot summer day in August. We had a heat wave the week he was born. The nurse handed him to me in the hospital and said, “you’ve got a fussy one.” What did that mean? I was a new mom at age 22 and had no idea about motherhood. Zack came out crying and continued for about 3 months straight, colic baby. Since he was my 1st child, I had no comparison. Do all babies cry this much for what seems like no reason at all? It was as if he cried just to hear himself and drive his young mother mad, I’m surprised I had more children after Zack, but I did… three, in fact. I once told a friend that the 3 other siblings all combined were less work than Zack alone.

As a toddler, he tested my every word and my patience daily. What was I doing wrong? I felt like a complete failure as a mom. My child was the definition of strong-willed. Our daily interactions always seemed to end in a battle of wills. I thought I had to win every argument because I was the parent, right! This turned out to be wrong. Zack didn’t play with toys; he destroyed them. Always onto the next thing with an attention span of about 3 minutes and zero patience. He was the type of child that had to touch everything in the store and figure things out on his own, even if it was the hard way.

Zack was naturally athletic and picked up any sport with little effort, not taking it seriously. He was always up for fun. I didn’t know that these born-in character traits would serve him in the most positive way later in his life. When the unthinkable would happen, and it did, on May 31, 2010, Zack became paralyzed. This accident was one of the worse days of my life. Everything felt slowed down, and I couldn’t wrap my head around what was being told to me. My energetic, full-of-life teenage son couldn’t move. I can remember seeing him on the ambulance gurney with a neck brace, and beach sand under my feet.

I spent the next 12 weeks with Zack in the hospital. I kept wondering when he was going to fall apart. Did he not hear the doctors when they said he had less than a 1% chance of ever walking again? Not that I wanted my son to crumble and be devastated, but he was acting as if he was recovering from a broken arm. He was talking, smiling and making his visitors laugh. My heart was the one in pieces. I had such mixed emotions watching my son handle this devastating news in this way. It took me weeks, maybe months, to stop waiting for the ball to drop. I finally realized one day; Zack knows perfectly well he is paralyzed. If he can have a smile on his face, then why should I be in tears? When I asked him how he felt, he said, “Mom, I cannot afford to be sad; I have to move forward” This is exactly what he did. That strong-willed spirit that drove me crazy is the same strong will that has kept Zack moving forward, continuing to inspire many people along the way.

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.