The Day of My Injury: Through My Eyes

Posted by Zack Collie in Life After Paralysis on November 17, 2022 # Lifestyle

zack collieImagine you are at the beach on a beautiful day in Southern California. The sky is blue and you feel the sun shining on your face. You are there with a group of friends enjoying the day. The air is fresh, and you can hear seagulls in the distance. You hear the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore and feel the wind blowing through the hairs on your skin. You look down and feel the warm sand between your toes. An uncontrollable smile comes across your face because you are happy to be in this moment and surrounded by friends. One of your friends rallies everyone to go into the water once more before it’s time to pack up and head home.

Everyone gets up and starts heading toward the ocean. As you run towards the water, you remember it being cold from earlier. You decide you’ll dive into a wave once you are deep enough and submerge yourself into the water to get used to it quicker. The wet sand and water hit your feet as you get closer. The cold water sends chills up your spine, but there is no place you would rather be right now. A wave starts to form in the distance, and you decide that’s the one you’re going to dive into. You focus on it as it gets closer to you and get ready to dive. The wave is now in front of you, and you dive headfirst. You feel invincible. Little did you know that would be the last time you would ever run again.

Crack! You hear a snap but are not quite sure what it is. Something feels off, but you can’t put your finger on it. You notice the water no longer feels cold on your skin. You go to get up, but nothing happens. The muscles in your body aren’t working. You try to get up again, but still nothing. Panic starts to set in. You realize something horrible just happened and are now face down in the ocean, unable to get up. Fear takes over. The thought goes through your head that you are paralyzed, which is why you can’t move. You wonder if any of your friends will notice you. The only thing you can do is hold your breath for as long as possible. That is the only way to stay alive. Stay calm. You tell yourself not to freak out because that will only make matters worse. You don’t know how long you have been underwater, but it feels like forever. I’m going to die today.

You feel this light sensation on your back. You have no idea what it is, but a sense of hope fills you. All of a sudden, your body starts to flip over. You take a huge breath of air and are now staring directly into the sun. You notice your body being pulled out of the water. Everything is moving in slow motion. Waves are crashing over you as this unidentifiable person is pulling you to safety. Your body is covered in sand as you are dragged farther and farther away from the water. You can see your arms above your head from the corner of your eye. They fall to the ground, lifeless. You can see they are attached to your body, but you can’t move them. They feel like a thousand pounds. You tell yourself this can’t be real, and you must be dreaming, but deep down, you know this isn’t a dream.

zack collie in hospitalThe unidentifiable person is now standing over you. You realize your best friend was running next to you as everyone was running toward the water. You go to speak, but no words come out of your mouth. By now, your group of friends is out of the water, standing around you to see what’s going on. Your voice isn’t working, so you keep mouthing, “I can’t move; I think I’m paralyzed.” Your friend realizes what you are saying and runs off to get a lifeguard. The lifeguard arrives and asks what happened. No one knows but you, but you still can’t speak. Shock takes over. You just keep repeating, “I can’t move; I think I’m paralyzed.”

The lifeguard realizes the situation and goes to call 911. You are lying in the sand on your back, trying to understand what just happened. You think about your family and how much you love them. You miss them so much right now and want them to be here with you. The sun is beating down on your face. A few minutes ago, you were just smiling and thinking to yourself how’s there was no place you would rather be. Now your world has been turned upside down. Loud sirens snap you out of your haze. You can hear the ambulance in the distance. A sense of relief comes over you, knowing help is on the way, but knowing whatever happened to you is serious. It is a weird feeling hearing the sound of an ambulance in the distance getting louder and louder, knowing they are coming for you.

The ambulance arrives. Right away, they put a neck brace on you. Strangers are all around you talking. You feel your body get lifted onto a stretcher. The medics strap your body down. Your friends are no longer next to you. The sky starts moving as the medics carry you off the sand in the stretcher to the ambulance. The ambulance is cold and smells like a hospital. You feel tired but fight to stay awake. The ambulance starts moving and you hear the loud sirens again. You know you are safe and in good hands, but that doesn’t change what happened. An oxygen mask goes over your face. You start to feel tired again but don’t fight it. You feel yourself dozing off and say a prayer hoping this is just a bad nightmare.

Zack Collie is living with quadriplegia and was paralyzed in 2010 diving under a wave at Newport Beach breaking his C-4 vertebrae. Zack started a YouTube channel to spread awareness about spinal cord injuries and his life living as one. His mother, Amber Collie, is also a regular blogger for the Reeve Foundation

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.