​Write Down & Achieve Those Goals!

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on May 24, 2022 # Caregiving

To Do ListI constantly have new ideas, inspirations or everyday things I’d like to get done floating around in my brain. My list of To Do’s is ongoing. I should buy stock in post-it notes! Sometimes I practice a no list method because I can feel enslaved to the many lists I write, yet at the same time, I accomplish more goals when I write them down. When I see things in writing, it makes them more real. I am organized, not super clean but not a slob either. Having raised four kids, it kind of forced me to plan and prioritize. Then in 2010, when my oldest son Zack (age 15) broke his neck in a beach accident, my entire world changed in a moment.

Trying to cope with the accident, frantically learning all I could comprehend and caregiving for my now quadriplegic teenager, my schedule was insane. New to the “wheelchair world” with zero previous knowledge about anything to do with spinal cord injuries. Plus, I had 3 other children to think about, my youngest just in kindergarten. I was thinking back to the beginning of Zack’s injury, the million calls and appointments. So, with many different therapies planning my schedule, my calendar looked like a puzzle, trying to fit everything in. I feel overwhelmed just thinking about those early days.

Over the past decade, I have had my share of ups and downs. It is hard to put into words all the emotions that come with a life-altering injury such as an SCI. One minute, life is as you know it, and another minute your child is paralyzed. I was fortunately handed a Reeve Foundation Manual style book at Rehab hospital. I can remember thumbing through that. It held valuable information. I was introduced to other families that had experienced this injury, and they walked us through a lot of the stuff we were desperately trying to navigate. In return, later, we were the family that helped newly injured families through their beginning stages.

I had to be organized in order to do all that needed to be accomplished daily. There was a season when Zack still needed to be turned 2-3 times through the night to avoid getting a pressure sore which can be very dangerous, so we did not sleep through the night without interruption for 3 years. In the morning, I would get my paralyzed boy out of bed, dressed and ready, my other 3 children up, breakfast, packed lunches and out the door by 8 AM!

Two school drop-offs and hit the freeway for a 1 hour and 20-minute drive to physical therapy for 3 hours, quick lunch, then back for the return drive home just in time for after-school pick-ups. My poor kids were usually one of the last kids standing there waiting for their ride. Finally, we would get home, and I’d start Zack’s bowel program and shower routine, which took 2 hours, while the kids did homework, dinner, dishes, bedtime routine and repeat… I remember my mind being on constant overload I’d think of something, and by the time I’d get a pen and paper I’d forgotten what I wanted to write down.

I had a list in my bedroom, kitchen, living room, car, purse, and bathroom. This list-making, although helping me, was also a constant reminder of work that needed to get done. I then decided to write down positive ideas and break times as well. Zack and I wrote down goals, big and small. I planned coffee with a friend, walked the dog or took a 10-minute break outside sitting in the sunshine.

I was way off balance and needed to mix working and pleasure. I had a very hard time giving myself permission to relax. I did notice, though, that if fun things or breaks were written down or added to my calendar, I accepted that as part of my “to-do lists” Some people are natural list makers. Others are not, but for my personality, this method helped me stay focused on my tasks, goals and small pleasures in life, especially during a very rough season!

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.