Supermum refuses to give up on studies

Gillian Quinn(40), from Gorebridge has defied all the odds to graduate from Edinburgh Napier University with an MSc in biomedical science.

Gillian Quinn(40), from Gorebridge has defied all the odds to graduate from Edinburgh Napier University with an MSc in biomedical science.

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When doctors told supermum Gillian her daughter was one in six billion with a condition they’d never seen before, she refused to let it get her down.

Even when she was struck down by debilitating ME she pledged to keep going.

Gillian Quinn(40), from Gorebridge has defied all the odds to graduate from Edinburgh Napier University with an MSc in biomedical science.

Along the way she has juggled looking after her autistic daughter Melissa, cared for her own sister, battled ME and studied throughout her fourth pregnancy.

“My wish is to inspire other students,” she says. “Whatever your circumstances, however you struggle to pursue your dreams, to obtain your qualifications and get the career you want, don’t give up.”

Melissa (16) was diagnosed six years ago with a chromosome disorder so rare that doctors called it ‘Melissa’s Condition’, as they had no other name for the range of learning disabilities caused when a part of one of her chromosomes was somehow deleted while she was still forming.

During that time, mum Gillian, who ran her own accountancy business, was diagnosed with ME. Running her business became too much and she decided to quit, and return to her first love – science. “I always wanted to study science,” she adds. “Everything that was happening made me realise you have to chase your dreams.”

She was just months into her studies at Queen Margaret University when Melissa’s behaviour dramatically deteriorated.

“It was a really challenging time,” recalls Gillian, who was also juggling looking after toddler Katie, her third child.

“Melissa would kick out at things. There were times I thought I couldn’t continue studying and looking after everyone.”

Yet Gillian refused to give up. “The ME left me feeling like I had a bad case of flu every single day,” she says. “Some days I had no energy to even get out of bed. I learned to make the most of the days when I had some energy and pace myself.”

“It’s been hard, financially as well as everything else, but my husband has been a tower of strength and helped me through. My motto is ‘where there’s a will, there is a way’ – and never give up.”