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Student achieves outstanding A-level results whilst battling illness

19 August 2020  |  Jill Lundberg  |  Posted in:

In spite of missing a huge amount of college, following the diagnosis of a heart condition two years ago, James Leadbeatter has achieved tremendous A-level results. Against all the odds, James, a former student at Richmond Sixth Form College, attained A*s in Maths and Physics and a B in Computer Science and is looking forward to starting his Master’s in Physics at Hull University.

James, aged 18, first realised something was wrong when he started to suffer palpitations and chest pains during and after basketball in 2018.  Playing to a high standard for Darlington Storm’s under 16 team, James was referred for tests which revealed he has vasovagal syncope which causes blood flow and heart rate problems resulting in tachycardia and Venus pooling where the blood settles in the lower limbs.  This means James cannot sit for more than 20-30 minutes and suffers with migraines, vision loss, fainting and fatigue, as well as co-ordination and concentration problems.

James said: “Due to episodes, I missed quite a few days of school on the run up to my GCSEs at Wensleydale School and at the start of sixth form I missed too many days to count, due to hospital appointments for tests and different consultations at James Cook and the Freemans Hospital. This has continued throughout my two years at Richmond as investigations are still ongoing. College have been very accommodating, adjusting my timetable to allow later start times on some days and earlier finishes on others, to help manage my fatigue.

“Studies could often be challenging due to the fatigue and concentration problems, exacerbated by medication and having to move around every 20-30 minutes. However, with the help and support of Mr Lunn and Mrs Harrison, who always gave their time to provide extra support when I needed it, I have achieved the results I wanted.  My parents have also been incredibly supportive, encouraging me and often forcing me to take a break through the most difficult times.”

James visited the Hull campus where he had the opportunity to speak with very enthusiastic students and lecturers. He discovered the course covers the fields that he is especially interested in as he hopes to eventually go into Medical Physics to study the use of lasers for precise non-invasive surgery. The university came across as one big family and have been very supportive, going out of their way to ensure he will be able to continue his studies.

James’ interest in pursuing Science as a career grew after developing a heart problem. Speaking with medical practitioners when undergoing echo-cardiograms, he found his scans fascinating; as the same principles to measure blood flow are used to track the movement of stars. James has already had relevant work experience, spending two days in the Radiography departments at the Freemans and RVI Hospitals as well as time in the Medical Physics Research Department at James Cook University Hospital where he learnt about the different equipment and their functions.

Jenna Potter, Headteacher at Richmond School and Sixth Form College, said:  ”Given the very difficult and worrying two years, James has amazed us all with his unfaltering determination to succeed. He has battled through immense fatigue and other health issues associated with his heart problem yet set his bar extremely high. His terrific results are testament to his resilience, hard work and sheer dedication, he is a great inspiration to other students. It is wonderful that something positive has come out of these challenging times in that it has led James to pursue a career involved in the technology used for non-invasive surgery.”

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