As a child growing up in the small Delta town of Hollandale, Miss., Hayden Perkins always had the intention of one day attending Ole Miss. But on November 11, 1991, when Perkins was only a 15 year-old ninth-grader, a tragedy occurred that could have made his intention an impossibility.
While taking a friend’s dog to the vet, Perkins stopped to refuel his truck. He then returned to his vehicle, forgetting to refasten his seatbelt. Once back on the road, he reached down to change the radio station. In an instant Perkins lost control of his vehicle, which began to flip. After finally coming to a stop, Perkins lay in an awkward position, causing his spinal cord and vertebrae to become severely bruised. The accident left Perkins paralyzed from the waist down, and with only two choices: 1) Give up on what you have desired or 2) Pursue your desires with an even greater passion. He chose the latter.
At first, Perkins had the same feelings and reactions that anyone in a similar situation would have. He was upset, angry, and depressed that such a misfortune could happen to him. He finished the ninth grade and survived the tenth grade in a completely different state than he was accustomed to.
“Before the accident, I did it all: football, baseball, track,” he says. “After the accident I was very depressed. Most of all I was embarrassed.”
Inner strength eventually won, though. “I was in the eleventh grade, and I made a decision to either give up or forget it and go on with my life,” states Perkins. “I was fortunate to have an amazing support group. They never allowed me to feel sorry for myself, and they sure didn’t feel sorry for me.”
Since his decision, Perkins’ misfortune has become a blessing.
In the fall of 1995, Perkins enrolled at Ole Miss as a freshman and joined Phi Delta Theta fraternity. In 1997, he began dating Jessica Wood, whom he married in 1998. The next year, Perkins became a father, with the birth of his oldest son, Preston. Later that same year, Perkins graduated from The University with a BA in biology.
Since that time, Perkins’ remarkable experience has continued. In 2001, his wife, Jessica, gave birth to twin boys, Ashton and John Seton. As if not already busy enough, Perkins graduated from UMC’s dental school in 2004.
Currently, Perkins is completing his pediatric dental residency program, which will allow him to specialize in children’s dentistry. Of concentrating strictly on children, Perkins says, “Kids are a whole lot more fun to work with. I just have the best time. The great part is that they’re fun, honest, and appreciative.”
Along with completing his residency, Perkins also gives motivational speeches to children in the Jackson Metro area. Through his speeches, he encourages his listeners to never give up, no matter how difficult life may seem.
Above all, however, is that Perkins is continuously dedicated to his wife and three sons, now six and four years old. Of his strength and devotion, his wife says, “He’s just unbelievable, and he’s awesome with his kids. They’re so proud of him. To be honest, I feel lucky to witness it all. He’s just amazing.”
In the end, Perkins knows that there are many who are worthy of praise for his success. His family, his friends, his fraternity brothers, and Ole Miss are all on the list.
“I owe a lot to the Ole Miss community,” he says. “I think it’s one of the greatest institutions in the country. When I go back, I feel like I’m going home, like I’m part of a big family.”