Sinead, from Newry, attributes her return to education to her four children. However, it was her son Nathan, now 10 years old, that motivated her specific interest in the study of the heart:
"Nathan was born with Hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital heart abnormality in which the left ventricle does not develop. Nathan required several procedures at Birmingham Children’s Hospital including four open heart surgeries, undergoing his first surgery at three days old… during this time, watching what my son was going through, I said to my husband I would love to learn about the heart and become more involved by understanding how the heart works"
Sinead and her family lived the patient pathway, fully supported by Cardiac Physiologists within the NHS; using sophisticated medical equipment to provide Nathan’s diagnosis, supporting a plan to surgery, and ultimately supporting recovery through diagnostic monitoring in the family home.
Despite the enormity of Nathan’s diagnosis and subsequent care, Sinead demonstrated admirable commitment in pursuing her education:
I completed the Adult Access course in Social Sciences whilst Nathan was having his surgeries. I then completed an HNC in Health and Social Care. It was then that I realised I wanted to specialise in cardiac… so I contacted Ulster University and asked about any degrees they offered that involved cardiac.
Having identified her preferred course, Sinead enrolled herself at the Belfast Metropolitan College where she successfully obtained the qualifications to meet the entry requirements for her degree at Ulster University.
Through her learning, Sinead gained a better understanding of her son’s condition, and this allowed her to engage on a deeper level with doctors during Nathan’s reviews and ongoing care. It also continues to draw her closer to her aspirations of supporting others who may undergo the same circumstances as herself.
Balancing family life with university life was manageable, due to the routine Sinead and her husband established, however the impact of Covid-19 pushed her resilience and determination to a new level:
Once covid came things became a lot harder. With schools opening and closing, we were having to rely on family to care for the children all day… I was on placement full-time, and I had to use my evenings, when the children were in bed, and the weekends, to do assignments and study for exams.
Sinead’s commitment and strong work ethic continues to embody the spirit of Ulster University. Overcoming fear with courage, and challenging the unknown with pursuit of knowledge, has driven Sinead to success and to a profound appreciation of what she values most in life:
"The most valuable lesson I will take forward is to appreciate time and to spend it wisely… I make the most of my time spent with family. I have also learnt that I am not in competition with others; I used to be so hard on myself if I failed to do as well as others in exams or assignments. I came to realise that as a mother of four, managing my son’s condition, medications and attending medical appointments, everyone’s situation is unique. We can only do our best and we should be proud of that."
Sinead hopes to embark upon her career as a Cardiac Physiologist following graduation and remains passionate about her impact in circumstances that require her deep-rooted empathy and heart-felt understanding.