Who is Amber Collie? | guest blogger Amber Collie

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on March 20, 2019 # Caregiving

Sometimes it's hard to remember who I was before I was Zack Collie’s full-time caregiver.

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.

On Memorial Day, 2010, Zack begged us to go to the beach with friends. We live in Southern California so going to the beach was a regular thing for us. It was more the fact Zack had already been gone most of the weekend and we didn’t want him to go. To say he was active is an understatement and like most 15-year-olds, he loved being with his friends. We gave in and off he went. The rest of the family (except Levi) went to a neighbor's pool party. At one point the boy who lived there asked me if Levi was coming. Levi had been playing football with some other friends and planned on meeting up with us later. When the boy asked me a second time I got up to grab my phone and call Levi. Originally, I was not planning to check my phone anytime soon that day, but I am glad I did. I saw I had one voice mail message, I paused, not going to listen but went ahead and pressed to hear “Amber, there’s been an accident Zack is at Hoag Hospital” it was the mom who drove them to the beach. I was stunned thinking ok, Zack possibly hit his head and needs stitches. I had that sinking feeling.

We quickly dropped off the other kids to grandma and headed down to Hoag Hospital. I am trying to call Travis at this point, the friend he went with, no answer. I tried again, goes straight to voicemail. Now I was feeling anxious. Adron and I were driving but not talking. We knew it was bad but still have no idea what happened. I tried one more time and Travis finally picked up. “What happened?” I asked. “Amber...” Travis’s voice sounded very scared. “Zack can’t move, he’s not moving.” Everything had suddenly gone into slow motion. It was taking so long to get there. We finally pulled up and I jumped out while my husband parked the car.

I literally ran down the long hallways looking for the ER when I arrive I spotted Travis and his mom. The looks on their faces were in complete horror. I remember the doctor coming out and saying Mr. and Mrs. Collie please have a seat. I didn’t want to sit down. He was polite but firm. I spoke up afraid of what he was about to say, I heard myself tell him to do not sugar coat this, what happened? I wanted to know, but my body was already reacting to the intense situation. Then I heard the words no one wants to hear. Zack had broken his neck and had sustained a spinal cord injury. I was confused, in shock and sick to my stomach, I looked over and my husband is as white as the wall. A nurse was giving him oxygen, as I took in the whole scene.

I looked at the doctor straight in the eyes and ask what are his chances? It didn't really make much sense, but he seemed to know what I was trying to ask. Will Zack get better? His reply “He has less than one percent chance of ever getting better”

I knew that this was not how he meant it, he was gently telling me Zack was not going to get better. But in my head, I heard, there is a half percent. I latched onto that.

“Where is my son?” I asked. I wanted to see him. At that moment I had a flood of strength. Zack is alive, he had survived. We are going to fight. No matter what we will move forward.

I have years of experience and many stories I hope to share with you. Stay tuned as I continue to share mine and Zack’s story.

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.