An inspirational student who has had to adjust to living with a serious heart condition has celebrated her graduation this week, enabling her to achieve a lifelong ambition of working with animals.

Laura Stott, 22, from Vicars Cross, Chester, who has graduated with a BSc in psychology from the University of Chester, was diagnosed with Long Q-T Syndrome (Sudden Death Syndrome) at the age of 15.

This condition is an uncommon but serious disorder which could cause fainting and episodes of an abnormally rapid heart rhythm which could prove fatal.

Discovering that she had lived with the rare condition since birth was a devastating blow for the keen athlete as it meant that she had to stop all forms of sport and exercise in order to avoid accelerating her heart rate which could induce her heart to stop beating.

The condition has meant that Laura has had to take medication in the form of beta-blockers and has had an Implantable Loop Recorder (ILR) fitted in her chest to record her heart’s electrical activity.

Despite the dramatic changes that the discovery of the condition has made to her life, Laura has refused to let it become a hindrance to her ambitions and she is now fulfilling her lifelong dream of working with animals by using her degree to study the behaviour of wolves at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria.

She explains: “I have always loved animals but it wasn’t until I went to university to study psychology that I realised that it could be a possibility for me to work with them in an academic setting. I love working with wolves and the contact I get to have with these wild animals.”

She added: “Initially, finding out that I had Long Q-T Syndrome had a profound physical effect on my life. My medication left me with extreme fatigue and I had to stop competitive running and exercise of any sort in order to keep my heart-rate low.

“Over time, my disability has impacted my life in a positive way. Through having this condition, I feel as though I have developed a better appreciation of life and everything in it. It has also enabled me to see the positive side of most situations because there is always one. If it had not been for my condition I wouldn’t have studied psychology which meant that I would never have realised my passion for it, nor for the University of Chester as a whole.”

Throughout her time at university, Laura became fully involved with university campaigns and activities, including leading disability awareness campaigns and running Chester Students’ Union’s (CSU) Psychology Society (CUPS).

She added: “My university experience taught me so much. Running CUPS and watching all of its members grow as people and learn over the years is something that I would never swap for anything. The society means so much to its members, we were like a little family and everyone knew that we’d all be there for each other at any time of the day or night.

“I am also proud to have been a disability representative and chair of student council and make a difference to the lives of students, as well as the part I played in organising the awareness events to help educate people about all the forms of disability.”

Laura received several awards during her time at the university, both in her capacity as president of CUPS and for recognition of the contributions that she made to student life, which included Most Inspiring Person at CSU’s Above and Beyond Awards, and Person of the Year at CSU’s Clubs and Societies Awards.

Dr Mandy Yilmaz, senior lecturer in psychology at the university said: “What makes Laura exceptional is that she never lets her condition stand in her way. She is an inspiration who has touched the lives of many students and staff here at the university and made a huge impression on the psychology department; I doubt we will ever have another student quite like her. I’m thrilled to hear that she is now fulfilling a lifelong dream over in Austria – she really is amazing.”

If you are graduating from the University of Chester, send us a photograph of you and your friends or family at the ceremony:

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