PLEASANTON, Calif. (KTVU) - 18-year-old Roman Perkins, of Pleasanton, has beaten the odds against a rare genetic disease to survive years beyond doctors' predictions and has now graduated high school.
KTVU first told Roman’s story almost 18 years ago after he was given a bone marrow transplant that saved his life.
On Friday night, a KTVU crew attended graduation at Foothill Hill School in Pleasanton. Roman says getting ready for graduation took years of hard work.
At his home, with the help of his two brothers, he proudly prepares for the ceremony. Today symbolizes goals accomplished in the face of many challenges.
"I always try my best. As long as I try my best, I can go as far as I want to," says Roman.
A lesson he says he's learned from living with Hurler's Syndrome, a rare genetic disease. He's missing an important enzyme, a condition that can lead to death in the first few years of a child's life.
KTVU first met Roman in 1999 when he was only 10-months-old, after he received a bone marrow transplant— an experimental treatment that saved his life. But it's not a cure.
Experts say many children with Hurler's die before they turn 10. In January Roman turned 18.
He says graduation day is a milestone he fought hard to reach.
"Graduation is a big accomplishment because I was told that I should be in special classes, but I demanded to stay in the normal ones because I knew I would be able to overcome," says Roman.
He is graduating with a 3.1 grade point average despite having problems seeing, hearing, talking and walking.
Roman says he overcame these challenges by refusing to give up.
"I never thought I would see this day. I didn't," says Ron Perkins, Roman's father, "He makes you stop and appreciate things. He slows the world down for you."
Roman says he's had a difficult time fitting in socially.
"When I ask a kid to hang out, I always get some sort of excuse," says Roman. But a loving family and friends outside of school have helped fill that void.
"There is really no normal out there and everybody's got their own fight that they fight. And he's definitely fought it," says Ron Perkins.
"I do what I believe I can do and don't do anything just 'cause someone says I should do something. And also, don't take no as an answer." says Roman.
He plans to attend Diablo Valley College and hope to have a career in the film industry.
Like others with Hurler's, the condition has stunted Roman's growth.
He's had multiple surgeries for joint problems.
But he's undaunted. His next task is to learn how to drive.