Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Life-changing brain surgery led to stroke rehabilitation study

A student whose recovery from a brain tumour inspired her to study rehabilitation techniques which could help others will graduate with a PhD from Queen's University's School of Psychology today.

Niamh Kennedy, from south Belfast, now a lecturer in stroke recovery at the University of East Anglia, was only 14 when she fell ill with what she and her family believed to be a bad dose of flu.

She said: "When I got worse instead of better, my family took me to the doctor.

"That led to a series of medical tests which revealed I had a tumour in the lining of my brain behind my right eye. This led to three episodes of neurosurgery, the last one of which led to complications.

"I lost the power of speech and movement on my right side and had to relearn how to speak but, thanks to the dedication of staff in the Royal Victoria Hospital, I made a full recovery."

Although Niamh lost six months of school, she was able to continue in her year and go on to study her GCSEs a year later.

She added: "I was very, very lucky, and I felt even luckier when I became aware that some of my fellow patients were not making as good a recovery. That inspired me to try to find out why.

"I went on to study psychology to further understand the workings of the brain, and did my undergraduate thesis on the experiences of children returning to school after suffering brain injuries.

"I went on to investigate techniques that could be used in stroke rehabilitation, which led to me receiving my PhD.

"You could say that my experiences at the age of 14 set me on the path to my future career."

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