Rachel Redhead underwent emergency surgery on her bladder a week before she was due to graduate; she doubted whether she would be able to attend the ceremony.
But with encourage from her tutors and the support of her friends and family over the last three years she was able to celebrate this major achievement alongside her classmates.
“I’m ready to take on what comes next,” she said. “I’m ready to fight again. I’ve learned that I need to stop doubting my abilities. I am more than capable of achieving what my peers can do.”
The odds were against Rachel from the start of her three-year degree in BSc (Hons) Nutrition & Health. At 17, she was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which affects the connective tissues – specifically collagen for Rachel – and she now has 12 subsequent conditions.
For Rachel, a simple sneeze can cause a rib dislocation and vital organs including her heart, stomach, kidneys and bladder are all severely impacted, causing chronic pain and fatigue.
The 21-year-old from Leeds has undergone three surgeries in less than a year and, with countless hospital admissions she has spent much of her degree studying from her hospital bed.
Speaking the day after her graduation, Rachel said: “There were points during my degree when I was ready to drop out. But my tutors would say ‘take a breath, you can do it, you’ll get there’.
“And I did. I got to graduation and it was so worth it.”
Rachel thanked her Personal Tutor Hazel Flight and her other lecturers for their support, from sending cards to encouraging words in class, they all sent messages to say how proud they are. They even put a contingency plan in place in case she was ill around exams or deadlines.
“That’s meant the world to me,” she added.
“Rachel has been an outstanding student who has shown true resilience throughout the past three years of study. She has dealt with significant personal issues and has completed the majority of her degree from a hospital bed.
“Never once has Rachel complained, she has overcome any obstacle that has been thrown at her. She is a true inspiration and has shown that if you are determined you can do anything you want to.
“It has been a real pleasure to know and teach her and I wish her every success in her future.”
Rachel is now taking a year out to rest and focus on her health but she is also considering a return to education with the possibility of studying a Masters at Edge Hill in the future.