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Young Stroke Survivor Graduates

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A determined young stroke survivor graduated with an MSc Principles of Neuropsychology degree at Bangor University’s winter graduation ceremonies.

Mother of two, Nicola Brown, 36, from Llanberis, was diagnosed with dyslexia aged 12, and began having seizures in her sleep when she was 17; suffering a stroke when she was just 24 years old. Left partially sighted, and losing her ability to recall information accurately, Nicola persevered with her strong ambitions, and overcame these challenges using assistive technology.

Deciding to push herself further, after achieving her BSc Neuropsychology undergraduate degree at Bangor; Nicola strived to earn her Masters, in the Principles of Neuropsychology. With her reflecting to say that she “finally can feel proud” of herself.

Working part-time throughout both of her degrees, Nicola decided to prioritise most of her time volunteering; gaining valuable experience whilst making a positive difference to the lives of others. She became a member of Headway Gwynedd & Môn, a non-profit organisation supporting brain injury survivors and their families/carers, in 2008. Since, Nicola’s hard work and commitment to others has been recognised, being prompted to now chair the charity in her home county, Gwynedd.

Alongside her commendable work at Headway, Nicola played a pivotal role in establishing, the University’s only student led volunteer programme, Headway Healing Gardens and Headway Friends; aiming to increase the confidence and social lives of their members.

Whilst studying at Bangor University, Nicola had to overcome a number of significant challenges. Reading and writing were the areas in which she struggled the most. However, thanks to the 1-2-1 support through Bangor’s renowned dyslexia centre, she states “I have been given the tools and techniques to really boost these essential skills”.

Remarkably, these obstacles have not hindered Nicola in her mission to help others whilst furthering her own education. She considers her highlights at Bangor University, to include winning the High Sheriff award in 2018, and volunteer of the year in 2019. Though on a separate level, she remains very thankful for the opportunity to work on a project focusing on social isolation after brain injury; a topic which remains very sentimental.

Dr Rudi Coetzer, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Neuropsychology and Consultant Neuropsychologist & Professional Head of the North Wales Brain Injury Service, said: “Nicola has been a fantastic student, inspiring all of those she came in contact with, and showing that what might seem impossible, is possible if you have the drive and passion to pursue your dreams.”

Moving forwards, Nicola shares her desire to continue researching social isolation following brain injury, and hopes to enrol on to a PhD to study the benefits of peer mentoring. Combined with her insight as chair of Headway Gwynedd, she understands this to be a key avenue which will bring tangible benefits to those suffering locally.

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