1. ITV Report

Student gets her degree by attending ceremony on a stretcher due to rare disease

A Newcastle University student living with a rare disease has become the first in her family to get a university degree - despite having to attend the graduation ceremony on a stretcher.

Melanie Hartshorn, 26, suffers from a rare disease which has left her bedbound and in constant pain.

She has Ehlers-Danios Syndrome, a genetic condition that causes her joints to dislocate.

She struggles to sit up without triggering a seizure and she was a severe case of Cranio-Cervical Instability, which is causing her skull to sink into her spine.

This means she spends almost all of her time lying on her stomach.

Despite this, Melanie managed to complete a BSc Hons in Biology – completing the final year of her degree from home.

Melanie receives her degree Credit: Newcastle University

This brilliant day means so much to me and I want to thank everyone who is supporting me.

As my condition worsened, I needed multiple operations which prevented me from graduating with my colleagues.

I had to take time off and I had to spread my final year over two years. It also meant I had to sit my exams on a stretcher and to work on assignments from home.

I'd like to take the opportunity to say thank you to Newcastle University which has provided fantastic support from visiting day onwards.

It’s been amazing and everyone made both my time here enjoyable, and reaching my goal to graduate achievable, despite the extreme medical obstacles I have had to tackle.

The latest being the most difficult - to raise over £150,000, to fund my lifesaving surgery.

– Melanie Hartshorn
Now a graduate. Melanie is all smiles of getting her certificate. Credit: Newcastle University

Melanie lives in Cramlington, Northumberland, where her mother is her sole carer.

She is currently raising money to go to the States for pioneering brain and spinal surgery.