Hospitalised 14 times, forced to learn to walk again four times and taking 39 pills a day, and still Seanin finished her degree
Published 06/07/2015 | 08:29
When Seanin Smith graduates from Ulster University today it will mark the end of a remarkable five-year journey.
The Co Armagh woman has battled the extremely rare genetic condition Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that affects the collagen in the body.
She has been hospitalised 14 times in the last two years, has to take 39 tablets every day and has learnt to walk four times in the last two years.
During her placement year, the 22-year-old suffered a stroke and had to take six months off to recover.
In total her course took her five years to complete.
But nothing could stop young Seanin from Belleeks from realising her dream and today she will be celebrating as she graduates with her degree in Human Nutrition.
Her tenacity has been recognised by the Ulster University who crowned her its undergraduate of the year.
Seanin said her studying Home Economics for A-level inspired her passion for food and health.
"I wanted to be a dietician and I had the grades but I hadn't studied all the sciences so my teachers told me I couldn't apply for that course," she said.
"So I decided to go to Ulster University to study Food Nutrition but in my second year I transferred to Human Nutrition which I hoped would increase my chances of studying dietetics later on. It took me five years to do my course as my final year was split over two years due to my health but those five years of study were brilliant.
"I graduate this summer with BSc Hons Human Nutrition 2.1 with a Diploma in Industrial Studies with commendation."
Seanin recalled her third year which involved a placement at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry when she got really ill. "I took a stroke three months in and was off for six months sick but completed the final three months of my placement," she said.
"My tutor was so supportive and I worked incredibly hard across those six months. In the end I got a first at my placement year so I was very happy about that."
She will continue her studies and complete a Masters in Human Nutrition and Dietetics at Ulster University, describing that as "a dream come true".
"It's a two-year Masters course with one year academic studies and another year's placement but because of my health I'm able to spread it all out over three years so I can balance hospital appointments etc," she said.
Seanin is currently being tested for a condition that affects the elastin in the body called Pseudo xanthoma Elasticum, as well as being diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.
Given the complex nature of her conditions and with her health deteriorating rapidly, her family have had to search for medical expertise and treatment abroad.
Seanin has thanked her parents and the Ulster University for their support in helping her realise her dream.