Belfast Telegraph

How inspirational student Jordan Clements defied muscular dystrophy to realise his lifelong dream of being a doctor

By Rebecca Black

Medical graduate Jordan Clements has completed one of the toughest degrees at Queen's despite suffering from muscular dystrophy - all inspired by a fierce determination to give something back for the care he has received.

The 24-year-old has been in a wheelchair since he was 15, a difficult transition from being a child who loved to swim and play cricket.

His earlier memories are of wanting to be a doctor, just like his father Barry, and he said the challenge of his illness made him even more determined to realise this dream.

Yesterday Jordan graduated after six years of study.

Queen's University Graduations July 4, 2017 - Full list of results 

When he was just nine years old he was drawing pictures of himself in a white coat. He was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy the same year.

By the age of 15 he was forced to accept he needed a chair to get around.

However, he said the additional challenges simply drove him to work harder.

Jordan was head boy at Wallace High School and went on to achieve straight A*s in his exams to win a place at Queen's to study medicine.

"It's in my DNA, there has never been anything else," he revealed.

Jordan said he and his siblings would have been around hospitals at an early stage and seeing his father in action was "a massive inspiration".

"But actually being in and out of the hospital as a patient myself from a young age, seeing it from that perspective, watching how the doctors interacted with myself, is something that really hit home with me," he said.

"I want to give what I can to do the very same. I have benefited from it, it has made a massive difference to me and if I can muster up enough strength to give something back, to emulate that, then I'll be happy."

Jordan said he was too young as a boy to realise what his diagnosis meant initially.

"I just remember going to see the doctor one day and him trying to explain how it was going to be, and that I was going to be a bit weaker," he said.

"To be honest, I thought: 'Oh, a bit weaker, I'm sure I can manage that'.

"As a child you don't really see the true picture. As a nine-year-old I just remember sitting in the consultation room smiling and thinking about getting an ice cream afterwards.

"But as the years went on the walking became more difficult, I was leaning further back, when it got to about fourth year I was leaning so far back and putting myself under so much physical stress that my heart rate was through the roof. That's when I went into the chair.

"It would have been second year to fourth year in school, the biggest hit. When you are at that time, puberty, there is a lot going through your head, a lot of school pressure, social pressure - what will my friends think, will people look at me, is it giving up?

"I was very stubborn and resilient. But my family, my mentors at school and friends, said: 'Look Jordan, it doesn't mean we will look at you any differently'. That would have been my biggest hurdle to overcome - being looked at as being something else to who I was before. It was that social stigma and people pitying more than respecting me.

"But I couldn't have asked for anything better than that network of support I had, or that transition never would have happened."

Jordan said that as tough as things were, it pushed him to follow his dreams against the odds.

"The harder it got, the more drive I hit back with. That is my logic, you may find things get you down but it's really how you get back up and keep moving is how I see it," he said.

"It has almost inspired me more, the more restricted and physically suffocating it is, the more you fight back and your dreams get bigger. I would regard myself as a bit of a dreamer."

Jordan will now have a few weeks off until August before he starts the first of two years as a junior doctor at Belfast City Hospital.

"Following that, you decide whether you want to specialise. For me, it will be between radiology or cancer care. I can't wait to start."

Barry is currently a surgeon in Belfast.

He paid tribute to his son's determination as well as some of those who have supported him, particularly Jordan's mother Kerry, his physician John McConville and his disability officer at Queen's, Drew Gilliland.

"It's been a significant achievement for Jordan, but he has always rallied in the face of adversity; I can't think of anyone else who would have managed this," he said.

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