Brave Swansea student overcomes multiple disabilities to secure Master’s Distinction

A Swansea University student who was born with multiple disabilities and battled back from life-changing brain surgery just three years ago, is celebrating after graduating with a Distinction in her Master’s degree.

Kirsty Hill, from Glyncorrwg, was born with a rare genetic condition called Fraser Syndrome which means she is registered deaf-blind, as well as having other physical disabilities such as webbed hands.

At the age of 15 she was also diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia, a chronic pain that affects the trigeminal nerve which carries sensation from the face to the brain.

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Having started her undergraduate studies in Psychology at Swansea University in 2012, Kirsty had to defer for a year in 2015 after suffering so much pain that daily routines such as eating and brushing her hair led to her needing life-changing brain surgery.

But she returned to her studies a year later, going on to earn first-class honours in 2016 before enrolling onto a part-time Master’s in Abnormal and Clinical Psychology where she has now secured a Distinction.

“It feels amazing to know that all my hard work has paid off – I’m very proud,” said Kirsty, who is also a volunteer for mental health charity MIND. “Studying at university has always been my dream and for someone who has spent a lot of time in hospitals and using the health service in general, I’ve always wanted to understand and help people with the more emotional side of health and illness.”

Kirsty’s studies have been aided by the University’s Transcription Centre, which provides accessible learning resources to print disabled students, while she also uses specialist software on her laptop called Supernova – a magnification programme which enables her to read electronic information by “speaking” to her.

“They (Transcription Centre) have been absolutely invaluable in their help and support throughout my studies,” she said.

“Their huge task in making all my work accessible has made me feel on an equal level to my peers and has allowed me to progress this far. I honestly don’t know if or how I would have completed my studies without them.”

With her family and friends’ unwavering support, Kirsty will now return to Swansea University in January to begin a three-year PhD where she plans to conduct research aimed at promoting psychological wellbeing in people living with a visual impairment.

“My inspiration definitely comes from my friends and family,” she said. “We are all extremely close, and I have been brought up with the mentality that you can do anything, so seeing others believe in me so much has made me believe in myself.”