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Two overcome huge obstacles to win awards

Two Springfield residents have been honored for their efforts to conquer disabilities that only recently have altered their lives.

But the awards presented Thursday at the Dayton Convention Center to Steve Perkins and Jessica Miles are just little things compared to what else Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley has given them.

“If I would not have found them, I don’t think he’d walk today,” said Gerri Perkins, Steve Perkins’ wife of 41 years. “He might not even be here today.”

Steve Perkins, 59, was an athletic, 6-foot-4-inch truck driver four years ago when he began taking medication to regulate a rapid heart rate. But something went very wrong.

By the time he entered Goodwill’s Springfield adult day service program last summer, he was in a wheelchair and couldn’t go to the bathroom by himself — the result of what was determined to be medication-induced Parkinson’s.

Miles, 24, lost her vision as the result of a rare condition two years after graduating from North High School, but got a job last year and lives on her own thanks to training provided by Goodwill.

“I wouldn’t have been able to get out of the house,” she said. “I’m eternally grateful for everything they’ve done for me.”

For how far they’ve come, Perkins and Miles were given the 2012 Senior Independence and Young Adult Independence awards, respectively, as part of Goodwill’s 79th annual awards celebration.

By her own admission, Miles, a 2007 graduate of North, always had bad eyesight.

“I always say I have elderly eyes,” she explained.

Born with congenital glaucoma, she thought she had a cataract four years ago when, in truth, her optic nerve had atrophied as a result of idiopathic pseudotumor cerebri.

“When I was diagnosed in 2006, there were less than 1,000 people in the United States with it,” Miles said.

Legally blind by 2009, she turned recently to Goodwill, and learned not only how to use a cane but how to use special software that makes it possible for her to work on a computer.

Last June, Miles landed her first job since becoming visually impaired, at Springfield’s Red Roof Inn Call Center. She’s now able to work from home, and just last week made a move to Columbus.

“There are days I think it’s really frustrating and I just don’t want to get out of bed,” she said of her condition. “(But) I think about all the things I can do.”

Steve Perkins has come so far in the past year he now can stay home by himself. He once again can walk and shower on his own. He even volunteers at the adult day service that gave him his mobility back.

“It’s been a struggle,” his wife, Gerri, said. “You just don’t realize how much your life can change overnight.”

The father of two and a grandfather to six, Steve Perkins had a severe reaction to a single medication at age 55.

“Any one of us runs that risk,” Gerri Perkins said.

The Perkinses visited countless doctors in southwest Ohio before finally turning last fall to the Cleveland Clinic, which diagnosed Steve Perkins with medication-induced Parkinson’s.

The condition won’t progress, like with traditional Parkinson’s disease, but the damage has been done.

“He was like an ox,” Gerri Perkins said. “Now he has difficulty walking, talking, everything. He went from one thing to the total opposite.”

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