On December 4th of 2014, I was biking to work when I was hit by an SUV. I suffered a traumatic brain injury that permanently changed my life.
A little bit about Pedro
On December 4th of 2014, I was biking to work when I was hit by an SUV. I suffered a traumatic brain injury that permanently changed my life. I had just signed a two-book deal with Penguin Random House the month before my accident, and I thought my life was going in a successful direction. The book deal was for my 4th and 5th books, and it was the biggest deal of my life. I was also a full-time teacher, and I loved my teaching career. But my whole life changed.
How life changed
I began having focal and grand mal seizures. I also have post-concussion syndrome. After the accident, I got frustrated easily. I couldn't pay attention like I used to, and there were holes in my memory. Time no longer made sense to me and still doesn't.
Yesterday is the same as three months ago.
The school district put me on full medical leave and I went on disability for the next two years. Meanwhile I struggled with completing my book edits, and I didn't do the publicity I was supposed to. The idea of working on social media overwhelmed me. Penguin Random House didn't pick up my option.
I did cognitive therapy, neuro-vision therapy, and counseling. I worked with my neurologist and a vocational therapist for the state. My family went on food stamps, and meanwhile, my book sales tanked. I wasn't offered another book deal until 7 years after my accident, with a much smaller publisher. That new book came out December 6th of 2022, and I'm hoping I can work my way back to being a mid-list author.
If I could do my recovery over again, I would change a few things.
First, I would admit how injured my brain was right away, and not try to pretend that I was okay with doctors, nurses, and my family. I wish I could also go back in that initial moment and demand a CT scan the day of the accident, because a scan three weeks later showed a lake of bleeding on one hemisphere. Who knows how much damage that bleed did without any intervention or treatment. Finally, I wish I’d been more honest and vulnerable with my book agent and editor, and I wish they’d have been more patient and encouraging with me.
My support system
I've now returned to teaching (although in a different department, with ADA modifications and supports from the Department for Human Services). My relationships have also been impacted, but some of them in a positive way. I'm more vulnerable and closer with my daughters. My students mean more to me now, and I'm grateful that I have so many quality people in my life. I also love dogs in a way that wasn't true before my accident. The natural world astounds and heals me as well.
I know that I will never be the same, but I am also learning to love who I am now, post-accident.
I love this quote by the poet Mary Oliver: “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” I’ve been trying to accept that my traumatic brain injury is a dark gift that I will continue to unpack.
Check out Pedro's latest novel, American Afterlife, here.