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13 July 2016, 11:19
A student with a rare condition that causes all her joints to dislocate has collected her Newcastle University degree on a stretcher.
Melanie Hartshorn suffers from a rare form of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a debilitating condition that affects connective tissue.
As a result the 26-year-old, from Cramlington, had to complete the final year of her Newcastle University biology degree at home and take her exams lying down.
She has also launched an appeal to raise £150,000 which she needs for treatment, as her skull has started to sink into her spine.
But despite her condition she finished her degree and in an emotional moment collected her certificate on a stretcher in front of her fellow graduates.
"This brilliant day means so much to me and I want to thank everyone who has supported me.
"As my condition worsened, I needed multiple operations which prevented me from graduating with my colleagues. I had to take time off and I had to spread my final year over two years.
"It also meant I had to sit my exams on a stretcher and to work on assignments from home.
"I'd like to thank Newcastle University for the fantastic support from visiting day onwards.
"Everyone has been amazing and made my time here enjoyable and reaching my goal to graduate achievable, despite the extreme medical obstacles I have had to tackle.
"The latest being the most difficult - to raise over £150,000 to fund my lifesaving surgery.''
The link to Melanie's GoFundMe Page is here
The ceremony means Ms Hartshorn has become the first member of her family to graduate from university.
Her mother and sole carer, Molly, said:
"Melanie's graduation means a lot to us. She didn't give up even after she lost her ability to write and read, having to work on her assignments from memory.
"She's been through so much, yet she managed to become the first in the family to graduate. I'm really proud of her.''