I was that teenager that had her life planned out to the T
Age 17; Start College and study law, business studies and accounts.
Age 19; Start University to further my studies in Law and by the age of 21 begin my journey to becoming a successful lawyer.
Pause! Life happened!
Yassin studying in a hospital bed
College went by extremely slowly. Although I finally finished college at age 20, I had to repeat my first year of college due to being too ill to sit my exams. I was discouraged to attend university. I thought to myself “how will I be able to cope?” with the fear of being constantly admitted into hospital. I however wanted to experience “university life”; meeting new friends, discovering new strengths, gaining independence away from family, exploring night life, all that good stuff! Two years later I finally built up courage and moved 80 miles south to Southampton Solent University.
I made new friends, I started discovering my strength, and I loved my independence, but it wasn’t all roses. Life gave me hard lemons so I moved back to London and attended a university that was not too close to home, so that I could continue to learn to be independent, and not too far so that I had both my family and healthcare professionals close by.
I came to realise that for someone with a long-term health condition; in addition to effective planning well ahead, I also needed to believe in my inner strength. I am a very determined and self-motivated individual; if I can envision it, then I can achieve it, with the help and support of the right people.
I have faced many challenges during my time at university, from a life-threatening heart surgery in my first year, where I was constantly told by the university to quit and that maybe university wasn’t for me. Not only did I prove them wrong by sitting my exams in the summer and proceeding to year 2, I also published my first book of short poems, “Words Ascending”, in my second year. Which has sold 150 copies to date.
In my final year, I was once again faced with the stress of university life and the never-ending deadlines. Finals were fast approaching, and I was dealing with health issues once again. I found myself on admission in hospital two weeks before exams and it wasn’t looking like I’ll be discharged anytime soon.
The people who had been paid to make life easier for me had no faith in me; my university mentor and the disability team although sympathised with me, only gave me one option which was to defer my exams to the summer. These are the people who should have believed in me the most and encouraged me every step of the way, but they failed me. I developed severe anxiety and saw all my hard work coming to an end. I contacted the Samaritan helpline as I saw no way out and after about an hour of trying to calm myself down, I decided I didn’t want all my hard work to end this way. I sought help from my hospital team. Various members of the team contacted the exam board of my University immediately. They sought and obtained guarantees which meant I was able to sit my exams in order to graduate with everybody else.
A few members of the Sickle Cell Team at Guy’s Hospital
I’ve always been told my achievements are down to my determination and my intellect. However, for someone with a long-term health condition, it is the doctors, nurses, psychologists, welfare officers and family who also played a major role in getting me this far and achieving one of my goals. I was able to sit my exams a week after everyone else and went on to achieve an Upper Second Class in my Law degree. So, I share my degree with the Sickle Cell team at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital and say thank you for your support and encouragements!
This Blog was written By: Yassin Saho for Sickle Cell Welfare Forum, to commemorate World Sickle Cell Day. Yassin is a Law Graduate from a London University, a Sickle Cell Advocate and a person living with Sickle Cell.