Double celebration for social work graduate after overcoming health battle

Sarah Jones (40) will enjoy well-deserved celebrations after overcoming health difficulties and family bereavements to graduate from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, with a BA (Hons) in Social Work (Residential Child Care) on Friday 10 December at 10.30am. The celebrations will also serve to welcome the arrival of her new baby girl, born on 10 November.

Sarah, originally from Kircudbright near Dumfries, and who now lives in Musselburgh with her partner Phil and two step-children, studied for the course via distance learning after completing a HNC at Stevenson College, Edinburgh in 2005.

She explains: "After completing my HNC, I was keen to develop my skills as a residential care worker, and wanted to enhance my practice work. I was attracted to the course at the School of Applied Social Studies as it offered flexible learning and had a good reputation for practical placements."

After being diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis at the age of 12, Sarah has suffered lower spine and neck pain, causing major mobility problems. Unfortunately, medication has not been successful in slowing the disease down, resulting in constant pain and medical procedures including having both her hips replaced.

Sarah also suffers regular flare ups of iritis, inflammation of the iris, and chronic fatigue, which has also had an effect on her ability to study.

In August 2007, two weeks prior to beginning her first social work placement, Sarah's mother sadly died after a short battle with cancer. Despite this, she managed to successfully complete her placement on time. Later that year tragedy struck again as Sarah's nephew was killed in a motorcycle accident.

She comments: "Although these were very hard times, I managed to continue my studies, and this is thanks to the invaluable support I received from my tutor, Patrick Walker. I strongly believe I would not be graduating today if it wasn't for his constant encouragement. Patrick gave me the confidence to believe in myself but also understood my limitations, and was able to construct a way forward when I was struggling with assignments."

"The team at Pentland View Close Support Unit in Edinburgh were also very supportive, especially Unit Manager Colin McGinn. I was extremely unwell during my placement and the team not only helped me cope but gave me valuable experiences that have developed me as a practitioner."

Earlier this year, as Sarah was completing her final-year, she discovered that she was pregnant. Baby Poppy Sunshine was delivered via C-Section on Wednesday 10 November.

Sarah explains: "Due to my long-term medication, I though I would be unable to conceive, so baby Poppy is a mini-miracle! I'm really looking forward to celebrating her arrival and my new qualification with family and friends."

Patrick Walker, Lecturer in Applied Social Studies comments: "Despite difficult personal circumstances, Sarah's academic performance has been consistently buoyant - a testimony to her focus and determination. The structure of the distance learning course means that those who have busy working and family lives can still achieve a qualification and better their careers."

Issued by:
Sarah Grieve
Communications Officer
Robert Gordon University
AB10 1FR
Tel: 01224 262206
Mob: 07970 622216