Inspiring Kate lets nothing get in her way of achieving degree

In and out of hospital, spending hours and hours on dialysis a week and having a transplanted kidney rejected is not how most students would describe their university days.

For Kate Kenyon however, this was her real life struggle of having to deal with a long-term illness while being determined to carry on with her education.

Through her sheer dedication, hard work and perseverance Kate has come out on top and will take to the stage on Tuesday December 6 at 10.30am to proudly collect a degree from Robert Gordon University (RGU).

Kate, 24, has suffered with chronic renal failure since the age of three. She was on peritoneal dialysis for four years as a child, received a kidney transplant from her Mum at the age of seven and then sadly it failed 12 years later at the age of 19.

For the last four years, she has bravely undergone hemodialysis. Two years of attending three times a week for four hours – and the past two years six times a week for two hours – during which time she has also been studying for a degree in communications with public relations from RGU’s Aberdeen Business School.

She said: “The majority of my family have a higher education and I listened to them talk about the opportunities and the experiences they had and the friends they made and I wanted to be part of that.

“I have loved every minute of my course and my entire university experience. It flew by and I have met so many amazing people – the lecturers were great and helped me grow plus the opportunities that I have had throughout my time at RGU will set me up for life.

“I dedicated a lot of time to revision but I also had my health issues to contend with plus dancing and working two jobs, being student ambassador for RGU and seeing my family and friends. I had a lot going on but I just coped somehow – I never really put too much thought in to it, I just did it.”

Kate had to put her education on hold in 2012 when her transplanted kidney rejected and she was in hospital for six weeks. After a few health issues due to her immunosuppressive medication such as contracting meningococcal meningitis and pneumonia, Kate had some setbacks and had to re-do second year three times.

"I was also attending dialysis three times a week as well as working weekends at a night club, being student ambassador for the university accommodation department and being part of the fresher’s team," she added.

She continued: “I was tired but at the same time you have to be part of university life as much as you can and take any opportunity that you are given. In respect to my outstanding contribution to the university as a student ambassador, I was awarded the esteemed Student Ambassador of the Year Award in the following March which I am extremely proud of.

“In late September I started back at uni part-time, still working in the nightclub at weekends and as a marketing and events assistant for a marketing and business development company during my time away from uni.

“Earlier in July I had decided to apply for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Not once did it cross my mind how I would do dialysis at the Games, I just went for it and dialysis would have to be an afterthought if I was successful.

“I managed to get an interview in September – and I made my interviewee cry. She asked what motivates me and I spoke about my illness and my positive outlook and she wept. I became one of the 15,000 volunteers.

“I made a video diary of my time at the Games for my documentary module at university and achieved an A. This meant that I was welcomed into third year with open arms – finally!

“The whole of third year ran smoothly. I passed all of my modules first time, I had started attending dialysis six times a week which gave me more of a social life and also took away many of the side effects of the treatment such as fatigue and insomnia - contradictory but true.”

Kate was awarded ‘Great Scot of the Year’ by the Sunday Mail for her outstanding contribution to sport during the Commonwealth Games.

“Never in a million years did I think I would win anything related to my contribution to sport. I can barely even swim”, she added.

Kate continued: “Third year came and went and it was my greatest year to date in terms of health, education and pretty much everything else. I started fourth year on high spirits and was determined to receive a First. By January I was on track, already achieving one A and three Bs.”

Then at 2.40am on January 26 this year, Kate received the phone call she had been waiting four years for – they had a kidney for her.

She said: “Unexpected things happen in life all the time and there is no use fighting them, you just have to roll with it. RGU have been more than supportive and I am Graduating in December as opposed to July but I have waited a long time for it and have put a lot of work in so it will be an incredible day.”

Kate is now planning to move to Edinburgh to work but she hopes to have her own company one day, specialising in corporate social responsibility.

Release by Stacey Lynch
Communications Officer | Business, Law and Management
Press and Media Enquiries