Paralysed Mansfield woman celebrates GCSE results

Donna Ratcliffe is a mature student at West Notts College
Donna Ratcliffe is a mature student at West Notts College

A courageous Mansfield woman, who left her sick bed for the first time in months to sit her GCSE exams, is over the moon with her results.

Mature student, Donna Ratcliffe, has suffered with arachnoiditis for the last nine years, a condition which has left her paralysed from the waist down.

But the 33-year-old did not let her condition get in the way of her education as she ventured back to the classroom in her wheelchair in September, having left school in 1997.

And her hard work paid off - as she received a B in English and a C in science.

The idea came after she got a counselling qualification at the same place, West Notts College, in 2011.

The single mother-of-two was ordered by doctors to stay on long-term bed rest, but she was determined to get the qualifications.

Her outgoing personality, positive attitude and thirst for knowledge saw her become a favourite with tutors and fellow students.

Donna said: “College was a life-line for me. Although I was really struggling health-wise and told to stay in bed, it was great to get out and be a person as opposed to being a patient or a client.

“Above all, I enjoyed meeting new people and doing something for me.”

Donna’s health further deteriorated in March, when she developed pressure sores and infections in her already-wounded leg, in addition to heart problems – meaning she was unable to attend college at all.

But rather than give up, she vowed to maintain her studies and complete her courses from home instead.

“I kept in really close contact with my tutors and followed lesson plans on my laptop while in bed, as well as completing all my work books,” she said.

“I also communicated with my classmates via Facebook and text messages, which helped me keep up-to-date with what was going on.”

Although entirely house-bound by this point, Donna was determined not to miss her final exams.

It saw her bravely leave her bed for the first time in three months, when she joined fellow students in sitting their papers at college in June.

“I thought ‘If I don’t sit these exams, I’ve wasted another year’, so there was no way I was going to miss them.”

Donna got her GCSEs in order to get on a higher education course, which she hopes to study in the near future.

She needed the qualifications in order to progress to an Access to Higher Education course at the college, which she hopes to study in the near future.