ACU nursing student triumphs over rare medical condition

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Brisbane, February 18 2008: Australian Catholic University (ACU) student Emily Flynn has had to fight harder than most to complete her degree, overcoming a rare medical condition and major brain surgery on her road to becoming a qualified nurse.

After starting her Bachelor of Nursing at ACU’s Brisbane Campus (McAuley at Banyo) in 2004 with her twin sister Lucy, 19-year-old Emily was diagnosed with Arterio-Venous Malformation (AVM), which affects only 0.1% of the population. After being admitted to hospital following a severe headache, doctors discovered that Emily had suffered a large haemorrhage in her left temporal lobe, and she was listed as critically ill. After spending three weeks in Intensive Care Unit at St. Andrews Hospital, including time in a coma, Emily returned home briefly before undergoing numerous painful operations, including brain surgery.

Just six months later, Emily returned to her studies at ACU’s Brisbane Campus (McAuley at Banyo). Through her amazing recovery, Emily faced a number of surgical procedures affecting her temporal lobe, the brain’s centre for language and speech. Once her operations were complete, Emily had to relearn the basics of speaking and reading all over again.

The frustration of a long and difficult road to wellness, along with seeing her twin Lucy complete her degree at the end of 2006, proved a further challenge, but Emily found strength and support from the campus community.

“Lucy and I had always done everything together, and it was incredibly upsetting to not be able to finish our studies together, but I am thankful for the encouragement I received from my lecturers, tutors and facilitators at ACU that made this process a lot easier and more enjoyable,” she said.

Though Emily has now finished her final exams and begun her career as a registered nurse at the Mater Private Hospital, she still occasionally has trouble finding the right word to use in a sentence, in addition to losing some vision and hearing ability from the force of the haemorrhage. Yet, these difficulties have failed to deter Emily from her desire to complete her studies and become a registered nurse.

“Everything that I went through only consolidated in my mind that I wanted to become a nurse”, she says. “I find that what I went through has become a real gift in that when I look after patients I am able to empathise with them and connect on a much deeper level”.

It has become Emily’s belief that despite the sometimes unglamorous nature of nursing, it holds a vital place in society. “I believe that being a nurse is an honour, as you are presented with the opportunity to be accepted into a special part of patients’ lives where not a lot of people are allowed to go. You are able to learn so many life lessons through the experiences you have with some incredibly brave and courageous people”.

Australian Catholic University (ACU) – established as Australia’s only Catholic, national, publicly funded university – is open to all. The University empowers its students and staff with a strong sense of social responsibility and concern for the moral and ethical dimensions of their study and their professional and personal lives.