Camden teenager who learnt to walk again after surgery passes A-levels

A teenager who took her exams in a back brace after undergoing spinal surgery to prevent her eventual paralysis is off to university.

LaSWAP pupil Harriet Mackinney overcame the odds to pass her A-levels in a year when she had to learn how to walk again.

The 18-year-old, who was based at La Sainte Union School in Dartmouth Park, said: “It was difficult, and I’m still wearing a soft brace now. I had to take rest breaks, because I would be sitting for a long time in a school hall.

“But I’m really pleased. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that I had got in.”

Harriet was born with scoliosis, the abnormal curvature of the spine, and would have been paralysed in just five years time if she did not have surgery to fix it.


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Diagnosed just months before going under the knife in the autumn of 2013, Harriet was in hospital for 15 days and off school for two months.

She refused to take a year out of school to recuperate, and ploughed ahead with her studies.

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When she did not score as highly in her AS exams last year as she would have liked, she decided to re-take nearly all of them and sit two years’ worth of exams this year.

But her perseverance paid off on Thursday, when she scored three C grades in PE, religious studies, and geography.

She will study primary education at Leeds Trinity University after a gap year in which she will teach in Fiji for three months.

Harriet, who is a youth ambassador for charity The Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK), said: “I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. It wasn’t something that was going to hold me back.

“There are a lot of girls and boys at SAUK who are like me and I thought I could say to them, look what I have done and you can do it as well.”

Harriet, of Finsbury Park, said one of the biggest challenges she faced was completing her A-level in PE.

She passed her course in life-saving a few weeks before undergoing surgery, but still had to take an exam in trampolining to obtain the qualification.

But after a lot of physiotherapy, Harriet was back on the trampoline in time to pass the exam.

“It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth it”, she said.

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