Thankful Season Grateful Heart

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on November 22, 2021

The Collie family in Hawaii Fall is personally my favorite season. I enjoy each of the 4 seasons because they represent such different things. Summer guarantees hot weather, kids out of school, a more relaxed schedule, and family vacations. Winter has my favorite holiday; I love everything Christmas and absolutely love the snow. Spring feels like a fresh start after the cold winter has passed and the busy holiday season is finally over. Oh, and then the arrival of Autumn when the trees start turning beautiful fall colors for me is the season, I connect with the most.

I love the fall decorations in the stores and the pumpkins. What is it about pumpkins? Fall feels more organized to me; kids go back to school, cooler, and cozy weather. This may sound like my life is all sweet and dandy, but it is far from it. We all have struggles. I have too many to list, but one major one is my oldest son is a paralyzed quadriplegic, and I am his full-time caregiver.

When Zack broke his next in a beach accident on Memorial Day 2010, I was 38 and had 4 children going to 4 different schools. Pre-K, elementary, Jr. High and High school. I also ran a small photography business. I thought I knew what busy was. Well, the last decade has taught me that you can always get busier!

I have walked through the physical dynamics of this injury. Zack is unable to get a drink of water on his own; I am his hands most of the time. I am lifting and adjusting him throughout the day. The mental part is the ups and downs of all the emotional pain, fighting to acceptance that comes with a life-altering injury. It affects the whole family, not just the one in the wheelchair.

Zack Collie in front of a fireplace that is decorated for Thanksgiving. He is wearing a blue flannel and using a wheelchairMy journey is different than Zack’s. My boy was 15 when he ran into the ocean for the last time. He chose to accept his fate early on and do what he could to move forward and still have a good life. He helped me adopt that mindset as well; even though the devastation was with us, it did not overtake us, and Zack has made a good life for himself. He graduated from college and is getting a master’s degree in counseling. He is currently working at an all-boys military school where he talks with kids and teens. Being in a wheelchair, I think the kids feel safe and are intrigued. Zack shows them you can persevere through even the worst of things. He is making a difference.

I think about where Zack is now, and it really started with a mindset, a choice. He could have easily chosen to stay the victim and stayed there for as long as he chose. Zack and I talked the other day about how things start with a thought. For example, one day, we said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go to Hawaii” instantly all the negative kicks in like the money, flying with a wheelchair but ignoring those thoughts I did a bit of research, checking hotels that have accessibility and airline fares. One day saw a good price, and 3 months later, we were on the beach in Maui. I bring that up to encourage you to think about the stuff you’d like to do and believe you can. This lovely fall season is a wonderful time to focus on those things you are grateful for. It can always be worse; I hear myself say.

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.