An inspirational graduate has revealed she hopes to represent Team GB at the Paralympic games after picking up an honours degree from a capital university - despite having her leg amputated a month before her course began.
Hope Gordon collected her degree in Sport and Exercise Science from Edinburgh Napier University in front of a packed Usher Hall less than two years after learning to walk again with the use of a prosthetic limb.
The 23-year-old was left requiring the use of a wheelchair after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), causing her left leg to ‘stop working’.
But after crowdfunding £10,000 to pay for an operation to remove the limb, Hope has flourished on the course, joining classmates in achieving her degree after two years on the course.
She is now planning for a career in physiotherapy and is intent on chasing her Paralympic dream ahead of the 2020 games in Tokyo.
Hope was diagnosed with the condition at the age of 12, describing a “burning sensation” on her left leg, leaving her in “excruciating pain” during any kind of physical activity.
She recalled playing Football in PE while at school in Sutherland when her leg started to “get sore,” revealing it never got any better.
Unsure of what had caused her leg to “stop working for no reason,” Hope was referred to specialists in Glasgow, who quickly made the diagnosis.
CRPS is most commonly caused by damage to the peripheral and central nervous system, usually because of an injury to a particular limb.
The condition has a peak age of around 40 and is rare among youngsters.
While a keen swimmer, it meant Hope could not put weight on her leg and left her confined to a wheelchair for over a decade.
Despite this, Hope continued her studies, achieving an HND in Health, Fitness and Exercise from Forth Valley College, enabling her to enter the Napier course in third year.
But with the pain becoming too much, Hope explored the prospect of having the limb amputated and after discovering the procedure was not available on the NHS, she found a surgeon in Blackpool who was willing to perform the operation.
Wellwishers donated to fund the procedure in their thousands, paving the way for the operation to go ahead in August 2016, just four weeks before she was due to start at Napier.
She received her prosthetic in October of the same year, but insists she has “no regrets” about going through with the treatment.
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.”
“But 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.”
Hope admitted it made practical elements of the course “much more difficult,” but revealed she surprised herself by how much she was able to accomplish.
She 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.”
She added: “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 now wants to pursue a career as a physiotherapist and refuses to give up on a place on the Team GB swimming team at the Paralympic games in two years time.
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.”
She added: “My outlook on life is 100 per cent positive.”