A Newton-Le-Willows student who spent months in hospital, gave birth at just 28 weeks, and studied next to her baby’s incubator, is graduating today with a first class degree in Integrated Children and Young People’s Practice.

Helena Moreno Rubio (33) is a senior learning assistant at a nursery school, and had already completed a foundation degree in Early Years Practice when she decided to start a degree at Edge Hill University’s Faculty of Health and Social Care.

After meeting programme leader Toni Bewley, Helena decided to apply for the conversion degree as the course allowed her to fit her studies around her busy life, full time job, and children.

Then, shortly after starting, mum-of-two Helena discovered she was pregnant again.

“I was over the moon and that made me even more determined to study,” she said. “But December came around and I started having pregnancy related problems.

“I contacted Toni and explained and she kept in regular contact making sure both me and the baby were ok; from them on I was in and out of hospital all the way through to my baby girl’s early arrival.”

Helena had just begun the background research for her dissertation when her baby girl Àlex made an early appearance at just 28 weeks gestation.

“This was a really hard time, not only for me, but for my whole family,” said Helena.

“I decided to have a two week break from everything whilst we were in the neonatal intensive care unit in Arrowe Park Hospital, once we were out of intensive care and into special care I could refocus on the dissertation and it helped me stay sane as I was living at the hospital with her for the whole eight weeks she was in.

“Doing the dissertation was part of my daily routine, between doing her cares (changing a tiny nappy, and checking and recording the baby’s temperature), I would sit by her incubator and write or research.

She added: “Whilst there were plenty of times that I thought I couldn’t do it, that it was impossible, but Toni was amazing at keeping in contact with me throughout to check not only on course progress but on how my baby girl and myself were doing.”

Helena now plans to take a year off studying and enjoy spending every minute possible with her baby girl and family.

“I definitely would not have been able to finish this degree without the help and support from Toni, my husband and my daughters they kept me going when it got tough. I am forever grateful to them,” she said.

“My advice to anyone is that nothing is impossible if you’re determined to do it. You have to work hard at everything in life if you want to achieve. You may have to make sacrifices in order to succeed but surround yourself with those who matter to you the most, they will understand and push you to achieve.”

Find out more about studying health and social care here.