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Studying & Surviving

By Tati Bainbridge

Hi! I’m Tati, I’m 20 and as well as being a history nerd, I love animals (my usual question at appointments is how do we get me back to horse riding?). I’m currently at university studying history and am about to move to Istanbul for a year studying abroad.

Currently I live with ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), PoTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia syndrome), CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) in my right leg, Coeliac, very mild Crohn’s, functional dyspepsia + post prandial distress syndrome, along with slow gastric motility, and hypermobility.

For me it all seems to be immune system related, after picking up glandular fever at 14, and so we are desperately trying to investigate what’s causing everything.

Trying to be both a student and a patient is hard...

Some lecturers are amazing, and go out of their way to support me, and others I spend every week chasing for the lecture slides. I love to learn, and so having to constantly explain to people my health conditions, or having to miss things, is really difficult. I’ve made a conscious effort to make sure I keep my love of learning as it means so much to me, and helps me feel less like I’m only a patient. I’m very lucky that the lecturers in my specialism in history, late antiquity/ early medieval Middle East, are really supportive. Additionally, my boyfriend and my family have been essential in helping me through it.

My Story

Before getting ill, I was a straight A student, predicted 7/8s and some 9s in my GCSEs. Unfortunately I got ill in the summer of 2017, and never recovered. The doctor at my boarding school didn’t believe I was ill, telling me I was faking it all to get out of school. As a result, with little support, I made it through my GCSEs with good grades, but nowhere near my predicted grades. When I applied to university, I had to explain the situation to them, stating where we were in the diagnostic process and my predicted GCSE grades before my health declined. I was incredibly lucky with my application to QMUL, they immediately put me in touch with their DDS (disability and dyslexia services) and supported me as much as possible, unlike other unis who refused to work with me at all.

As I was in the beginning of my journey, I found some of my teachers didn’t believe me...

One teacher told me I was lying about having a medical appointment during her class, which was really difficult as a 17 year old struggling with their health. Thankfully, one of my history A level teachers was my form tutor, my personal statement tutor, and previously had me for GCSE history, and helped me through it all. Due to her co-ordinating with my other teachers what I needed to finish, my mum and my doctors doing a last minute course of steroids to get me through exams, I finished with an impressive A*AB. I was also lucky enough to have an amazing school chaplain who helped me get through medical appointments and strongly advocated for me at school.

The first year of university went pretty well and I finished 1st year with a 2:1...

Then at the end of first year I got Covid, failed my immunosuppressants and have been spiralling since then. My university have stepped in significantly to help me succeed, as I have around 3-4 functional hours a day, with significant pain and nausea, making it very hard to do the reading, analysis and prep for essays. I have a student support summary, stating my conditions and my accommodations, such as getting lecture slides before my lectures, missing lectures/arriving late/leaving early, etc. It goes out to every lecturer and seminar leader I have each semester, and also states I may have to get extensions due to my health, which I’ll co-ordinate with DDS. To get me through my second year with my current health situation, after I refused to take a year out, DDS and I worked out a plan of significant extensions of my essays and coursework, with staggered deadlines so it didn’t overwhelm me. With these support plans in place, I finished with another 2:1 overall in second year, and a first in my mini dissertation, something I’m incredibly proud of!

My heart goes out to all the fellow patients in education, as I know exactly how terrifying and overwhelming it can be, I promise you are doing so well.


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