Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Queen’s student battles ‘invisible illness’ to graduate with Human Biology degree

Queen’s Student, Gabrielle McTaggart graduated with a degree in Human Biology, from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s University last week.

The South Armagh student spent more years than she had initially anticipated at Queen’s, forced to take a few years out during her degree due to illness before returning to complete it part time – determined not to let her condition hold her back.

Gabrielle first joined Queen’s in 2009 to study a Foundation Year degree in Science before going on to do a degree in Human Biology. From the beginning, Gabrielle struggled with her day to day studies, often feeling exhausted and constantly losing weight.  Her condition was compounded by the fact that doctors were unable to explain why she was feeling the way she was.

It was only in 2012, when she was officially diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, scoliosis and osteoporosis that she began to understand her symptoms. Surprisingly, Gabrielle says she was “delighted” to receive the diagnosis, which finally meant she could begin to understand her illness and receive the right treatment. During her degree, Gabrielle enjoyed having the opportunity to further develop her understanding of the rare illness Crohn’s and jokes how this gave her a “head start” in the exams.

Gabrielle described her advisor of studies, Samantha Taylor, as “a constant pillar of support” throughout her time at Queen’s. 

“She told me about the Disability Services team whose support was vital,” said Gabrielle.

“When I was too ill or in hospital and couldn’t attend class, the Disability Services team sent a note taker to the lecture so I wouldn’t miss out. They provided me with so much practical help including a desk I could use in bed, where I ended up writing the majority of my thesis due to my illness. Support like getting library books collected and returned and a parking space at the University made it possible for me to persevere with my studies.

“I really don’t know how to thank Queen’s and I can’t wait to return in September to do a Masters in Clinical Anatomy. I’m proud to be a Queen’s graduate and to have fought this horrible invisible illness with the help of the disability services team.”