A RYEDALE student has graduated with a first in biochemistry after battling back from a life-changing illness.

Suzie Hewitt, 22, now says she plans to become a doctor - four years after consultants said she was too ill to sit her A-levels.

Suzie, of Beadlam, has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), and over the last five years has had to undergo a number of operations.

Her condition, which she was born with, causes severe joint hypermobility and dislocations. It first started causing problems when she was in her mid-teens, when she was studying dance.

"It started at the end of Year 10, when I was doing my first GCSE exams," she said. "I was dancing quite a lot when I first noticed that I started having really bad back pain, and it turned out that I had a bulging disc. Then I started losing some of the feeling in my legs.

"And then I fell, and I ended up in A&E. There were so many investigations, scans, tests. We tried every different hospital, because there isn't a massive neurology department for paediatrics."

A paediatric neurologist at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle said he could help but she would need to be an inpatient for "quite a long time". She was home-schooled at that time, and using a wheelchair because her walking ability had decreased.

"I had to go through to Newcastle in the middle of July, and I was in there until September," she said. "It was about results day when they had a look at my scans and found the brain herniation that they realised was quite significant."

Working from home, she said she was still determined to get what GCSEs she could, and managed to get six. However, following the surgery and six-week hospital stay, the symptoms returned.

"I was told not to do my A-levels by the consultants. They said it was not good idea. But I'd missed enough time. I had 50 per cent attendance. Thankfully I managed to pass them."

She got a place doing biochemistry at Salford university with a foundation year due to her A-level grades. She was in hospital throughout the course, including surgery during first year. She also sees a neurologist every six months.

"It's quite hard to believe I actually got through it," she said. "I was going down to the operating table in the January of my first year of university, being in excruciating pain, thinking no, I shouldn't have done this. It's been ups and downs, real hard work."

She is now looking at healthcare apprenticeships to get medical experience with a view to doing a graduate medicine course.