Coach Perry

Coach Perry

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

Coach Perry

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

~Phillippians 4:13

My husband Perry was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age four. At that time, he was falling occasionally when he walked. At the age of twenty years old in 1996, the doctors realized that Perry actually had hereditary spastic paraparesis (also known as familial spastic paraplegia or FSP). It is an inherited neurological disorder characterized by gradual development of stiffness (spastic) and variable degrees of weakness (paraplegia) in the muscle and legs. This disease also causes spasms in the legs, leg cramps, poor balance and fatigue. Perry experiences these symptoms every day. It is not certain right now how his mobility to walk will be affected in the future. At the right time, Perry and I hope our Heavenly Father will bless us with children to love and cherish, even though there is a 50/50 chance they will inherit this disorder.

As a result, Perry walks with a limp, dragging his toes with one foot in front of the other and uses the assistance of a cane. Without his cane, he walks around the house using walls, kitchen counter-tops and other furniture to help maintain his balance. Even though it takes every effort to walk and he feels tired throughout each day, Perry does not complain. With ongoing research, we hope and pray that his illness will someday be cured.

Despite his handicap, Perry has had a great love for sports throughout his life. He was determined to play baseball and basketball with his friends when he was in middle school. Even with limitations, I admire him so much because Perry volunteers at the high school he graduated from. The students call him “Coach Perry.” His title is Equipment Manager, but he is so much more than that. His dedication to the school is one of the reasons why I love him more each day.

Every football season, he dedicates himself to the team every day. After each practice and each game, he stays to make sure everything is put back where it belongs and then watches the replays with the other coaches. Sometimes I stay with him after the game. Perry has done this for twenty years plus, including four years as a student and he has only missed one game, due to the stomach flu. In December 8, 2006, my new family and I supported him and his school by going to the championship game at the New Orleans Superdome the night before our wedding day! He did not want to miss that for the world. His greatest football experience was in December of 2011, which happened to be the day after our fifth wedding anniversary, when the team went 15-0 and won their first state football championship in school history. All of those years had finally paid off!

Perry also enjoys being involved with other sports. He is the announcer for the boys’ baseball team. If there is a function at the school and they need help, you will see him there. Because of everything he does, Coach Perry is well respected by the staff, students, and parents. He was “officially” recognized on May 12, 2007 at the St. Charles Catholic All Sports Banquet with the St. Charles Borromeo Award for loyalty and dedication to St. Charles Athletics. The St. Charles Borromeo Award recognizes members of the school community who have given their time and talents to make the athletic department the best it can be. There have been many students who look up to Perry as a role model. I could not be prouder of him in that moment!

Unfortunately at this time in the year of 2013, Perry feels he needs to step away because of the physical toll on his body due to the responsibilities of his occupation at school. It is uncertain when he will go back to the high school to do small physical tasks in the future.

With my husband’s challenges and my own dyslexia and ADD, I was very moved by Chicken Soup for the Unsinkable Soul. Every story in this book is special. As I read it, I felt like the stories were encouraging me to not give up during the challenging times in our marriage. It gave me a peace of mind that with our faith and love for each other, Perry and I can overcome obstacles together, being strong for one another, as well as all the other families I have read about.

One story in particular, “Heaven’s Very Special Child” by John and Edna Massamilla, grabbed my complete attention. It began in 1954 when a family was taking their handicapped daughter to an institution where doctors felt she should live with other children like her. The girl’s mother turned on the car radio and heard a familiar voice. It was a former classmate of hers who had no legs. The next sentence blew me away. It read, “He was now president of an organization employing persons who are disabled.”

I can’t begin to describe how I felt when I read that sentence. What better way for a person to help those who are disabled, needing employment, when he is disabled himself!

~Michelle Duplessis Prudhomme

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