A brave young woman who had her left leg amputated a month before starting university has graduated with an honours degree in Sport and Exercise Science.
Hope Gordon shrugged off the impact of life-changing surgery to throw herself into her studies – even though she had to learn to walk with a prosthetic limb while adjusting to university life.
Today the 23-year-old joined classmates at Edinburgh Napier to collect her BSc at the Usher Hall, despite her disability making practical elements of the course particularly challenging.
Hope said: “In the end the only thing I really could not do was run on a treadmill. I could manage lectures, lab reports, exams and even practicals on a rowing machine or a bike, but anything involving running or standing for a period of time was difficult.
“However, I am different to most people who have lost a leg in that I saw it as a good thing which allowed me to get on with activities which I could do, like swimming.
“I think academic staff recognised my positivity and didn’t treat me any differently, other than being understanding if I needed to sit out on a practical, and it is great to round off university with the fantastic experience of graduation day.”
Hope’s life changed as a 12-year-old when her left leg suddenly “stopped working for no reason”.
The youngster, originally from Rogart, Sutherland, was plagued by a constant burning sensation and was referred to specialists in Glasgow who eventually diagnosed Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. (CRPS)
With her sports activities now restricted, she began to focus strongly on developing her swimming talent but she remained in extreme discomfort. She could not bend or put weight on her leg, and even a minor bump left her in excruciating pain.
The condition left her struggling to sleep and relying on a wheelchair to get around, and she eventually began to see amputation as her only option.
The NHS would not pay for it but Hope found a supportive surgeon and a crowd-funding appeal raised £10,000 for the operation, which took place in Blackpool on August 2 2016.
A month later she began her university career, living in the capital with her brother Sean, her HND in health, fitness and exercise from Forth Valley College earning her a start in the third year of the Edinburgh Napier course.
Hope said: “Going straight into third year at university is a big enough challenge in its own right but I got my prosthetic in the October and was actually learning to walk while adjusting to my new life.
“However, I have absolutely no regrets – the operation was the right thing to do. I was in a wheelchair for a decade and have not used it since the immediate aftermath of the surgery. My surgeon has also been amazing, and has been trying to gather evidence that for some people with CRPS amputation is actually very positive.”
Hope is now preparing for new challenges. She is contemplating a career in physiotherapy, and driving her automatic car to swimming pools all over East Lothian to train towards her goal of representing the GB team at the Paralympic Games.
She said: “I have some way to go to reach the required standard but swimming helped me a lot before my operation, and it remains my way of dealing with things.
“My outlook on life is 100 per cent positive.”
Pete Laird, Edinburgh Napier’s programme leader in Sport, Exercise and Health Science, said: “Not only has Hope grown in confidence during her time with us, but educationally and intellectually she has blossomed in her Honours year.
“Her determination is clear to anyone who has ever met her, but her humility and humour make her a delight to work with, so much so that she became a student ambassador for us.
“We wish her all the very best in her academic and athletic career and hope she continues to be an inspiration to others.”