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Nothing - even surgery for a rare brain condition - was going to stop this Stockton mum from achieving her target.

The Stockton Riverside College student has now had her “Outstanding Commitment” to her studies recognised, named a regional winner.

This week marks a precious milestone for Stockton mum Charlotte.

Starting university to study adult nursing, it’s a moment she faced her own personal battle to achieve.

Looking back over the last year, amazingly the 34-year-old is able to laugh at the extent to which her sheer determination has got her through.

Diagnosed with a rare brain condition and undergoing four lots of surgery wasn’t going to put her off, and, of course, there was the global pandemic!

She said: “There are some things that seem ridiculous looking back, but I was so adamant that I wasn’t going to give up.”

Having signed up to an Access to Higher Education in Health course at Stockton Riverside College, Charlotte said: “It was something I had wanted to do for me, it was a personal challenge and a chance to give my daughter a better life.”

A beauty therapist, she fit her college studies around the demands of family life and working part-time.

But she was not long into her course when Charlotte started noticing problems with her eyes and then fainted a couple of times - once straight after her university interview.

“I just put it down to stress at the time and didn’t think a lot more about it,” she said.

It was only when her sight seemed to rapidly deteriorate that she finally headed to the opticians, they sent her straight to A&E.

Ultimately diagnosed with a rare type of Chiari Malformation, Charlotte said: “It’s such a rare condition it was only down to the experience of the neurosurgeon that he found it.”

Days later she was in surgery to ease the pressure on her brain. Due to complications, over the last year, three further operations followed.

Despite it all, Charlotte remained determined to complete her college course. Given a plan to enable her to work from home, her commitment showed no limits when she turned up for a tutorial while having complications with her wound.

“I remember the looks on my tutors’ faces as they said, what are you doing here? You need to go to hospital,” she said. “I can look back now and think, what was I doing? But I was so determined not to fall further behind.”

Offered a place to study adult nursing at Teesside University and wanting to complete the challenge she had set herself, were two of her driving forces as well as the support she got from family, including her mum, herself a former nurse.

Plus Charlotte said: “I loved the course and while at times it was hard I really did enjoy it.”

Eventually completing her studies in lockdown, and still managing to get merits and distinctions, Charlotte’s dedication has been recognised, nominated by her tutor and named a One Awards regional winner and national runner up in the Keith Fletcher Access to HE Memorial Prize in the Outstanding Commitment to Study category.

She said: “I was shocked to even be nominated, I don’t like a lot of fuss so when they told me I couldn’t believe it.”

Now, recovering well and starting university, she hopes it is the start of good things to come.

“I have had a rough time but you have to laugh,” she said. “With everything else that is going on, what’s the point in being upset, you just have to get on with it.” 

Charlotte Grover
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