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Inspirational student overcomes illness to graduate with First Class Honours

Emma Bohan, aged 34 from Alderney in the Channel Islands, will graduate today with a First Class Honours Degree in Adult Nursing from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University Belfast.

At just 24 years old, Emma took a sudden cardiac arrest and was without oxygen for 15 minutes whilst being resuscitated. She said: “I was put into an induced coma to let my body recover. The medical team prepared my family for the worst, where I would need 24-hour care, not being able to talk, walk or communicate.

“I was soon diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome (a congenital heart condition) and had an ICD (Internal Cardiac Defibrillator) implanted. I have spent quite a bit of time in and out of hospital since and have been cared for and treated by the most amazing nurses, which inspired me to train as a nurse myself. I suffered a hypoxic brain injury due to the lack of oxygen, so I find learning and remembering really tricky now, but every day I consider myself so lucky to be alive.”

Emma initially started her degree at Queen’s in September 2016, but within a month she was admitted to hospital. She explained: “I had two cardiac arrests and eight shocks from my ICD, which was thankfully doing its job and keeping me alive. I was too poorly to continue my degree, so I went home to Alderney. I deferred until the following year and came back to Northern Ireland in September 2017 and returned to my degree.”

In March 2018, during the second year of her training, Emma had to have an operation to remove her current ICD to implant a new one along with a stent, due to complications. She said: “Queen’s gave me the option of deferring, but with the support of my family, friends and personal tutor from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, I was able to carry on as planned. My tutor was Maggie Bennett. From day one Maggie has supported me, not only academically, but personally; she was absolutely brilliant!

“Along with my hypoxic brain injury, I am also dyslexic, so Queen’s also provided me with a tutor, Maria. She assisted me with proofreading my academic work and providing revision aids. She was such a huge support to me.”

In her third year, Emma completed her management placement on a cardiology ward in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and has since taken up a permanent post as a staff nurse back on the same cardiology ward. She plans to complete her Master’s degree in the not-too-distant future.

As she is so dedicated to her career as nurse, Emma will be working on the day of her virtual graduation and hopes to celebrate soon with all her friends and family so they can share in her success.

Remembering her time at Queens, Emma commented: “Studying at Queens was hard work at times. I discovered that I am a little bit of a geek. I loved the academic aspect of the degree and learning, along with the practical side on placements.

“My high was definitely the people that I met and the friends that I now have for life. Along with my family and friends back home, my friends in Northern Ireland got me through the degree!”

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