Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Stephen's heroic finale after illness

A student from Co Londonderry - who started the year in hospital suffering from a severe heart complaint - will achieve his ambition when he graduates from Queen's University today.



Stephen Friel, from Derry City, is due to graduate from the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering with a 2.1 BSc honours in Environmental planning.

Today's honour comes just months after Stephen was diagnosed with Sudden Death Syndrome.

He had been studying for his finals in January of this year when he was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast with a severe heart condition. Stephen was close to death and underwent two major operations.

Now studying for a Masters in Rural and Urban Design at Queen's, Stephen, who has suffered from heart complications since childhood, said: "After recovering from surgery I was almost three months behind in my class and had to work hard to catch up.

"I'm extremely proud to graduate at Queen's this week as it seemed all but impossible in January."

Also graduating today will be Carrickfergus man Ricky Barklie (43) and his 36-year old partner Shauvaun Caldwell.

The couple met while studying at Queen's and both are due to graduate from the School of Nursing and Midwifery.

Ricky was due to receive a diploma in Trauma Studies whilst Shauvaun, from Ballyrobert, graduated with a BSc Honours in Nursing Studies.

The Trauma Studies diploma is offered in conjunction with local charity WAVE which offers support to people whose lives have been affected by violence.

Ricky said: "WAVE does such valuable and much-needed work in Northern Ireland and I am delighted to see Queen's now also offering a degree in Trauma Studies."

Over 1,800 students are set to graduate from the Belfast university during five ceremonies - the last of which is being held tomorrow.

Honorary degrees are due to be awarded tomorrow to Northern Ireland-based artist Neil Shawcross and distinguished classic musicians, Belfast-born sisters Fionnuala and Una Hunt.

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