Perry has Eagle-Barrett syndrome, also known as prune belly syndrome, a rare disorder that is characterized by abnormalities in the abdominal muscles and urinary system, which often affects how the bladder and kidneys function.
Perry’s condition was diagnosed during his mother’s pregnancy. Doctors told her that her son would not live, and that even if he were to survive birth, he would live the rest of his life with major complications. Despite others’ discouragement, Perry’s mother had faith that her baby would survive.
And Perry did survive, but his childhood was often spent in the hospital. From birth to third grade, he had 13 surgeries and was hospitalized 22 times. Those who have prune belly syndrome often have to use a catheter every three to four hours, and this greatly affected the quality of Perry’s daily life. He often felt anger and shame because of his condition and wondered whether it was a punishment from God.
Thanks to his faith and the encouragement of his parents, Perry now sees his disorder in a very different way. Today, he sees it as a blessing that has shaped him into a better person.
“Having prune belly syndrome has taught me to speak up for those who can’t speak,” said Perry, a Northland High School graduate from Columbus, Ohio. “Create your own path, and don’t let society or others define you. Take what you were given. Run with it.”
Perry has certainly paved his own path at Wittenberg as an active member of Concerned Black Students (CBS), Minority Men Striving to Succeed Together (M2S2), Housing Committee Advisory, and RA Advisory Board. A theatre major and sociology minor, he has also been involved in shows such as What Are You Going to Be, Stick Fly, and The Wedding Story.
Perry says he is passionate about theatre because it allows him to share different perspectives and has taught him to embrace every aspect of life, both the good and the bad. Besides a love for the art of theatre, he chose to pursue theatre in order to use his public presence on stage to bring awareness to topics related to health and mental illness. Perry hopes that his work on stage will build understanding and appreciation for others’ stories.
“I hope to be able to share others’ stories just like mine and bring them to the public eye and bring awareness to them,” he said. “I want to get involved with anything that has a message and a good meaning behind it.”
Perry’s passion for activism has also been stirred at Wittenberg. During his sophomore year, he took Professor of Sociology Keith Doubt’s Identity, Self, and Society course. The class visited weekly with mentally ill patients, an experience that Perry calls humbling and a source of motivation to bring awareness to those who may be struggling.
“It made me want to speak up for them and stop letting society’s norms try to define them,” he said. “Taking that class truly opened my eyes and helped reinstate my passion for helping others.”
After graduating from Wittenberg, Perry plans to move to Los Angeles to work in film and television. He will carry with him all he has learned from his own experience, the experiences of those he has impacted, and a passion for telling the stories of people in need.