A Story to Tell
After sustaining multiple traumas in a car crash, Cesar Perez worked hard to reclaim his life and discovered he had a story to share.
At 24, Cesar Perez felt like life was moving in a great direction. In addition to his full-time job, he was working behind the scenes in film, and his acting career was blossoming. On a road trip one weekend, he was seriously injured in a car crash involving an impaired driver. Cesar was stabilized at Fairview Park Hospital in Dublin, Georgia, then airlifted to Atrium Health Navicent in Macon. In addition to many broken bones, he had a traumatic brain injury (TBI). After two weeks in Macon and several surgeries, he transferred to Shepherd Center’s inpatient Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program.
“If there was a reset button, somehow, I pressed it. I had to learn how to breathe, walk, talk, everything all over again,” he recalls.
Cesar, who was in great physical shape before his injury, says, “I knew my body could handle it, but I didn't understand the brain injury and the fact that my emotions were so rampant. I felt like the dam that once held them at bay had been broken.”
He says his family, who dropped everything to be with him, and the Shepherd team were instrumental in his recovery.
“They always pushed me, and that’s what I needed. I knew that we had to be aggressive if I was going to get out of bed and get my life back,” he explains. “Thankfully, I’ve always been a highly motivated, goal-oriented person.”
Of course, there were difficult days.
“I was so depressed for a while; I didn't have any outlets,” he recalls. “Before my injury, if I felt angry or emotional, I would go to the gym and work out. Now I could barely get out of bed. I want to be transparent; I went through my struggles.”
Cesar’s mom suggested he start writing about his experience and his feelings. “For her, the point wasn’t to write a book; it was to serve as a catharsis.”
But as Cesar began to heal, he re-read his journal and decided that what was written there might help others.
“I realized there was a message I wanted to get across to help people navigate their darkest moments.”
Cesar’s book, Chase the Light, was published last year. He’s working full-time and making a film about his experience.
“I don't know where I would be had it not been for Shepherd Center. Now I’m back to doing what I love. I’m still chasing my dreams and I see that life can still be beautiful despite the trauma and scars. Shepherd gave me that back.”
Written by Ruth Underwood
Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.