Tyrone man who fought adversity turns life round to plot course towards degree
A young Co Tyrone man is well on his way to gaining an Open University degree after fighting and overcoming a number of debilitating health conditions.
Conor McHugh, from Dungannon, was born prematurely at 28 weeks weighing just 1lb 11oz, and at six weeks old underwent a tracheostomy operation.
He spent his childhood in and out of hospital, battered by a series of life-threatening illnesses.
At age two he suffered a severe seizure, and as he was being rushed to hospital he went into cardiac arrest.
His brain had been starved of oxygen, resulting in a brain injury. Little Conor was not expected to survive.
He was in a coma for seven days and in the aftermath experienced hallucinations, mood swings, lost all awareness of danger, and suffered from a weakness down the whole left side of his body.
Now 27, and supported by local charity the Cedar Foundation, Conor is completing a work placement in the Drumcree Community Centre as part of his Youth Work degree at the Open University.
He spoke of how he had fought back to overcome adversity and, with the help of the Cedar Foundation, had put his life on track.
"When I first joined Cedar I was a very frustrated young person with quite a lot of insecurities around my own personal development," he said.
"I was very unhappy at that time in my life. I can only describe my life as a storm.
"I wasn't the easiest to live with and I couldn't deal with life on life's terms with regards to my responsibilities or anything else."
The Cedar Foundation - and his case worker Sinead McGrath - helped Conor turn his life around.
"It helped me take my dream and turn it into a reality," he said.
"I now feel I can achieve anything I put my heart and soul into.
"At present I have just completed my second assignment of this academic year and continue to engage with young people at my current placement in the Drumcree Community Centre in Portadown."
Conor hopes to graduate in 2021 with a 2:1 degree, and to pursue a career working with young people.