Tyne & Wear

Melanie Hartshorn returns home after spine operations

Melanie Hartshorn with her mother Molly
Image caption Ms Hartshorn can sit upright for about an hour a day

A disabled woman who accepted her university degree lying down has returned to her Northumberland home after groundbreaking surgery in Spain.

Melanie Hartshorn, from Cramlington, has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome which causes her skull to sink into her spine.

After almost £160,000 was raised for two operations, the 27-year-old is now able to sit up for about an hour a day.

She said the success of the procedures would now enable her to pursue a career as a teacher.

Surgeons in Barcelona operated for nine hours to fuse her skull to her spine last month.

Ms Hartshorn said: "It has just been incredible. I never thought I would be able to sit up. It was something I was never able to plan for.

"I had to have two operations. The first one was to put screws all the way down from my skull, right down my neck to keep all the bones in line and stop them from compressing my brain stem.

"The second operation to basically do that all down my back to my pelvis."

Image copyright Newcastle University
Image caption Ms Hartshorn's condition meant she had to lie down to take her finals exams and accept her biology degree

Ms Hartshorn said she was limited to about one hour a day in her wheelchair, but is hopeful that will increase with physiotherapy.

She added: "I really want to do teaching, go back to university and get my primary teaching qualifications.

"But the first thing is physio rehab, build up my sitting time and get an electric wheelchair.

"That will mean I can go out on my own and access the world again."

She also thanked those who had contributed to her fundraising campaign and who had "changed her life" for good.

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