Grace is a single parent and broke her spine at the age of 20. The medical help she received inspired her to study Medical Sciences and to be a role model to her young son.
I loved school, but hated sixth form. I ended up working in a supermarket. When I was 20 I got pregnant, and about six months after going back to work I broke my spine. Technically my son’s dad broke my spine. I had spinal surgery and rehabilitation to be able to walk again. I was lucky not to be paralysed, and lucky to be alive.
I decided I wanted to be a doctor because of the help I got. I researched what I needed to do to be a doctor. I needed better grades, so I did an Access to HE science programme. I missed the deadline for medicine so I applied for Medical Sciences.
The Family Centre is really flexible; my lectures are split across both campuses which can make it difficult. One of my lecturers had three kids while he was doing his PhD so he’s very much an advocate for parents. Any issues I have, I bring to him and it gets sorted. Exams have been my least favourite part of studying – I don’t get a chance to revise as much as I’d like because I have a child.
I’m technically disabled because of my back and my mental health – I have both depression and anxiety – so I was assessed for Disabled Students Allowance so the University can put things in place to support me. My anxiety means sometimes I can’t work in groups of people. If I come in on a day like that I just need to tell whoever’s teaching that session and I can work on my own if possible. I have note-taking software you can talk to which can automatically transcribe a lecture.
I’ve made some amazing friends. People are really surprised when they find out that I have a child. I don’t really have a typical student social life. I wanted to take part in societies – however, most of the meets are in the evening or on a Sunday, so I can’t go. You feel like you’re missing out on part of your uni experience, going out and having fun. I don’t get to do that, but it’s part of being a mum.
I’m glad I did this. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Mentally it’s an awful lot to juggle. I know I’m making a much better life for my son. I want him to see that his mummy did everything she could for him; that you can go and do something if you try. At the end of it I can say ‘all this has happened to me and look: I still managed to do what I wanted to do’.