When you wake up one day minus the power of speech, unable to walk and not even knowing who your parents are, fashioning a future in football looks like the ultimate long shot.
It’s more a matter of survival and hoping the doctors can figure out why you went to bed seemingly okay but awakened to a world radically changed.
That was the traumatic reality faced by Australian winger Jordan Perez six years back at the age of 11, after a seemingly innocuous tumble during a training match for Sydney-based NPL side Sutherland Sharks sparked a brain haemorrhage.
Flash forward to the here and now and Perez is on the books of Spanish outfit CF Reus Deportiu, who were sitting pretty in Spain’s Segunda Division when he arrived almost three years back, only to be subsequently booted out of the league after a failure to pay players.
But more of that later.
It ranks as a minor miracle Perez made it that far in the first place.
“We didn’t know if I’d be able to play again - I couldn’t walk for a few months, I couldn’t talk or even feed myself,” recalls Perez of the freak accident which turned his world upside down.
“I’m told I stood on the ball at training, lost balance and hit the Astroturf pretty hard on my head,” he explained.
“I felt dizzy and light-headed afterwards but other than that though I was okay.
“The next day, though, I was in really deep trouble.”
Perez was rushed to hospital where scans revealed a brain bleed as the culprit, leaving him “having to learn how to how to do almost everything again, like a newborn baby”.
“It was about understanding and being taught how to do basic things, including walking and talking,” he recalled.
“I couldn’t even touch my nose with my finger at one point. It’s hard to imagine now.”
Months of almost daily rehabilitation - mostly focused on manipulations to the vagus nerve in his neck to enhance neuroplasticity - countless scans and a strong will to recover were his weapons on the long road back.
“It’s strange - after he got better he was physically faster, he ate different foods and became a different person, more emotional,” explained mother Rosemary.
“They didn’t operate because scans showed the bleed was dissipating.
“But he still doesn’t remember what happened and had to learn all those motor skills again.”
Twelve months later, a helmet-clad Perez made a tentative return to action - soon ditching the appendage as his confidence returned.
A tour with Blacktown City to Europe, where he faced academy players from Real Madrid and Benfica, followed.
He was back in Spain soon afterwards thanks to the backing and encouragement of Sydney-based Irish coach Brian Baker.
And the chance for the attacker to join Reus emerged in 2018.
A year on the Catalan club were kicked out of the competition for three years and fined $500,000 after leaving scores of players unpaid. The ban was rescinded on appeal but they remain in Spain’s fourth tier awaiting an official re-entry into La Liga under a new ownership model.
“When I arrived there were no issues and I was in a good spot,” said Perez, whose U-18s team were also dropped a division as part of the punishment meted out by football authorities.
“The first team have been signing players lately and are looking to get back to where they were.
“What’s happened has just made me and the team more determined to get back to be successful.”
There has, however, been talk of a potential move to a third-tier side amidst the ongoing uncertainty at Reus.
“There have been a few offers for me - but we’ll see what happens there,” he added.
“We’re just weighing it all up - if it happens I could be playing against Barcelona B, Espanol B and teams like that which would give me a big boost.”
Whatever ultimately unfolds, Perez is just counting his blessings to be playing again - anywhere.