A student who was a centimetre from death has defied all the odds to pursue his university dream.
When Euan Russell underwent major chest surgery three years ago, he feared the term out of school would have put paid to his career ambitions.
Now, a further two operations down the line, including one to save him from the brink of death, he not only has his GCSEs under his belt, but three A-Levels, sending him on his way to his dream university course.
“I’ve learnt not to take life for granted and to just go for it every single day,” he said.
“The last three years have been building up to this so I was so nervous getting my A-Level results, but it is amazing.
“All of the work has paid off and I’m going to Leeds Met to study photo-journalism, just as I wanted to do.”
Euan’s ordeal began in December 2011 when he underwent a huge operation for a sunken chest condition.
He said: “I had a big dip in my chest so I had to have surgery to put a big bar inside to correct the position of my ribs. It was a very painful operation and it meant a term out of school, but I somehow still managed to make up the work.”
In February 2012, it was discovered that Euan was suffering from an inflammation of his heart sac as a result of the previous surgery, meaning a further operation to remove fluid, and yet more time out of school.
However, the Morpeth King Edward VI School pupil still managed to pass his GCSE exams and went into the sixth form to begin his studies for A-Levels.
But worse was to come in September last year when it was discovered that the bar in Euan’s chest had moved dangerously close to his heart.
“Over the course of a year, the bar had moved towards my heart and had been just one centimetre away from killing me,” he said.
“That was just in September, but I really wanted to get into Leeds Met this year. The doctor said I would be off school for four months, but I only had three weeks off because I couldn’t afford to miss more time. I made myself get out of bed and keep going.
“It was definitely hard work and the pain was unbearable. At times I couldn’t cough or laugh, or even take a deep breath, because of the pain of the bar being there. Trying to block it out was very hard.
“After the first two operations, I realised that I had wasted my time a bit so after the third one, I was determined not to let it get me down and to go for it 100 per cent. It really paid off.”
On Thursday last week, Euan nervously joined classmates at the school to collect his A-Level results for psychology, photography and physical education.
And he was delighted to learn that he had secured the required grades, two Cs and a D, for the photo-journalism course at Leeds Metropolitan University.
“I really wasn’t expecting these results. It just feels incredible, knowing that I’m going to do the course I wanted. When I told my family, my mum cried and my sister screamed. They were absolutely over the moon for me,” he said.
Staff at King Edward’s had been eager to help Euan through his studies, and he benefited from support in the ground floor access area, one-to-one tuition and receiving work at home when he was too ill to attend class.
He thanked teachers for all their efforts.
“I got a lot of support from the school. The teachers spent a lot of time with me. The support was really helpful and I couldn’t have done this without it so I’m so grateful,” he said.
“My friends have all been brilliant as well. They all came to see me before my last operation to cheer me up and they were there for me every day in school.
“Even though I’m proud of myself for that fact that I have come back from the brink of death to get these results and my place at Leeds Met, I know I wouldn’t have been able to do any of it without the help of my friends and the school. It has been a big team effort.”