How My SCI Injury Led Me To My Purpose

When I was injured back in 2010, at the age of 15, it felt like my life was over before it started. I was a very independent person and this injury took that away from me along with many other things. Being a teenager, I didn’t understand the reality of spinal cord damage. Even after doctors told me the severity of my injury, I still thought I would walk out of the hospital.

zack collie

After a while, it slowly set in that this was something I would be dealing with for the rest of my life. I focused on physical therapy the first few years after my accident. I put my life on hold to focus on my recovery and finish high school. I struggled to see a future for myself being so dependent on others for daily care and quality of life. I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career or how I was going to make it work. Thankfully, I went to college and through that experience found my calling: I realized I wanted to become a therapist and use my life experiences to help others.

The best thing about being a therapist is that I can do it independently despite my disability. Doing therapy doesn’t require a lot of physical actions. I just need to use my brain and voice. Now that I am doing therapy and working towards getting my hours for licensure, I can’t imagine doing anything else. But the only reason I became a therapist was because of my injury. Had my accident not happened, I would have never gone to college. I received a wheelchair scholarship that helped pay for my tuition, money that neither me nor my parents had. Plus, I was never an academic student and after high school, I was done.

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One of the things that has helped me keep moving forward despite my circumstances is instead of focusing on what this injury took away from me, I look at the blessings that have come because of it. One of them is going to college and finding my purpose. My injury has given my life meaning that I didn’t have before. Having meaning in my life gives me the hope I need to continue moving forward and not give up. When I have purpose in my life it makes the pain more bearable. I’ve come to realize the power of our mindset and what we tell ourselves. What we focus on is going to impact our thoughts and behaviors. Although I can’t control what happened to me, I can control my reactions.

We can’t always control the cards life deals us, but we can choose how we play them. I now realize that my accident wasn’t the end but rather the start of a new beginning. Don’t let certain life circumstances dictate your life and put a limit on yourself. If anything, this injury has shown me my true potential and how strong I am. Something that I did not realize about myself pre-injury.

About the Author - Zack Collie

Hi, my name is Zack and I am 29 years old. In 2010, at the age of 15, I suffered a spinal cord injury and was diagnosed as a C4 quadriplegic. Thirteen years later, I have a master’s degree in counseling, I’m married and working as a mental health therapist.

Zack Collie

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana 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 $10,000,000 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.