Belfast Telegraph

Battling illness to achieve excellence

Derry Schools

By Leona O'Neill

There were tears of joy and disappointment, hugs from school friends and principals and a palpable sense of relief that all the hard work had finally paid off in Londonderry yesterday.

For some, the journey was more difficult than others.

Richie Laird (19) a pupil at Lisneal College, had to negotiate the stresses of his A-level studies while battling the symptoms of Crohn's disease. The Waterside man found himself spending more time in hospital than in the classroom but still came away with an impressive B and two Cs.

"I had to repeat lower sixth year and have spent most of this year in and out of hospital.

"My attendance has been less than 20%," he said.

"But I'm a tough cookie, you have to be with Crohn's.

"I'm really proud of myself for doing so well despite all of this. I'm heading to Ulster University at Jordanstown to study radiography. It's strange, I've grown up in the hospital environment, you'd think I wouldn't want to go back, but I found it so interesting.

"My mum was so pleased she cried."

Fellow Lisneal College pupil Emma Smethurst also achieved amazing results despite health challenges. The 18-year-old achieved two A*s and an A and is off to Queen's to study history.

"I have scoliosis which means my spine is not straight, and I had to have an operation last year to insert metal rods and bolts into my spine to make it straight.

"I was off for three months and just returned in time to do my exams. Even then it was difficult to sit for them. I'm really proud of myself that I did so well because of the challenges I faced."

Other pupils spoke of their success and their plans for the future.

Over in the Creggan estate, St Joseph's Boys' School pupil Harry Curran said he will take his three As to Liverpool where he will study maths.

"I'm absolutely buzzing. I'm relieved also. I just wanted to know what I got and I've been waiting all summer," he said.

"I'm not 100% sure what career I want at the moment.

"I'm thinking an actuary, someone who calculates risk for big business. That's where the money is."

St Columb's College pupil Liam Doherty (19) got an A* and two As.

"I am more relieved than anything else," he said.

"I have been accepted to study Pharmacy at Queen's University. I was too nervous to open the results this morning.

"I gave my mum the pass code. She was so nervous she didn't sleep. She opened them and told me what I got.

"I'm going to do pharmacy now and then decide what I want to do next, perhaps another degree in something scientific."

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