Maintaining an Attitude of Gratitude

When I was lying in the hospital bed after my accident, I had just been told the severity of my injury and that I would probably never walk again. As a fifteen-year-old teenager, I had no idea how to process something like that. Part of me didn’t want to believe it and the other part knew it could be true because I couldn’t move anything. I had no movement below my neck. If I had an itch on my face, I couldn’t scratch it and would have to ask someone else to do it for me. I realized how serious this was and all the things in my life I took for granted.


My spinal cord injury took away the most important thing from me, my independence. My mind instantly went to everything I lost and what I could no longer do, which was a lot. I could no longer shower, dress, or feed myself. If I was thirsty and wanted a drink of water, I had to ask someone. When my fingernails and toenails got long, I could no longer cut them myself. I couldn’t even blow my nose because my muscles were too weak and I no longer had the strength to cough. My mind was fixated on the negative because it’s easier to quit and harder to try. Life as I knew it was over.

I had no hope or direction. I remember my dad coming into my hospital room and having a conversation with me. He told me how heartbroken he was that this happened to me and that he wished he could take my place. I instantly started crying, but couldn’t wipe away the tears from my face. This was the first time I ever saw my dad cry. My dad told me no matter the circumstances, my family would always be there for me and that he loved me.

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After he left, I sat in silence, thinking. I had an internal conversation with myself to figure out what my options were. In the end, I only came to two conclusions. The first one was to give up and accept that my life was over and that there was no hope for a happy future. My second choice was to focus on the things I still had, move forward, and create a future for myself. Option one felt like the easier decision. Option two was harder because I had no idea how or what I was going to do, but option two had hope. Lying in that hospital bed, I made the decision that I was not going to let my situation dictate my future.

I started focusing on everything I still had and could do. I still had my voice and my brain. I was still with my family. I had a support system and people I could rely on. Instead of being alive, I could have died. My injury showed me who my real friends were. When I started focusing on the things I was grateful for, it rewired my brain to always identify the good. This way of thinking has benefitted my life in so many ways.

I would not be where I am today without having an attitude of gratitude. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

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.