Utopia High School student survives brain bleed that caused him to wreck his truck

Unconscious for a month, Johnny Cazares, 16, tells his story of recovery from traumatic brain injury

UTOPIA, Texas – A Utopia High School student’s life was turned upside down after he experienced a traumatic brain injury last summer.

Johnny Cazares, 16, was number three in his class, a varsity athlete in several sports and had dreams of going to the Marines, but an injury left him hospitalized for months and forced him to re-learn how to talk and walk.

On July 18, 2022, Cazares woke up with a slight headache. He didn’t think anything of it and drove to work down a farm to market road near Vanderpool, Texas. But that small headache was really his brain having internal bleeding.

“It caused me to pass out and lose consciousness and I hit a tree,” Cazares who is now in 11th grade said.

Cazares said it’s not a busy road, but by some miracle someone happened to see the crash and call 911.

His truck was wrecked and the crash broke his femur, collapsing his lung and also caused a traumatic brain injury on top of his brain bleed.

The EMS volunteer first responders happened to know Johnny, as one was a family friend and the other his high school nurse. They called his family immediately.

Cazares was airlifted to University Hospital, where his family was told they weren’t sure if he would live.

”It was like an hour by hour, see how he was going to progress, seeing if he was even going to make it out,” Anahy Cazares, Johnny’s mother, said.

But Johnny fought. After being unconscious for a month, he woke up.

“I could see that I was in a hospital bed,” Cazares said. “I was like, ‘Oh, God, where am I? Why am I here?’ I should be at work.”

Anahy said doctors say the crash and the people that found him and the quick response of getting airlifted all played crucial parts to Johnny’s life being saved.

Johnny had to re-learn how to talk, sit up, and the hardest feat -- walk. But he was determined to get back to school. After two months in the hospital and daily rounds of occupational and physical therapy, he was released to go back to school in September, where his classmates cheered for him as he walked across the gym during Homecoming court.

Cazares said he still has a lot of work to do, calling his traumatic brain injury an invisible injury. He may seem fine on the outside, but wants to bring awareness to others to have patience with those with TBI. He says it takes time to educate yourself on what it takes to overcome.

It’s why his mom has tracked his progress through an Instagram page to remember how far’s traveled.

”Not knowing if we were going to get to see him again and tell him how much we love him. It was very hard. It was very hard,” Anahy Cazares said.

Johnny said he wants to become a physical therapist, since his therapists have been inspirational to him. His biggest inspiration however, is his family, thanking them for never leaving his side as he recovers.

”There isn’t any other family that ever wanted to be in,” he said.

About the Author

Sarah Acosta is a weekend Good Morning San Antonio anchor and a general assignments reporter at KSAT12. She joined the news team in April 2018 as a morning reporter for GMSA and is a native South Texan.

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