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Ill health doesn’t stop John from achieving his academic dreams

Date 14.04.2021

Lecturers have been blown away by the determination of a student who has battled a life-threatening condition to remain on course for exceptional academic grades.

John Cross, was aged 19 when he suffered kidney failure, back in 2006. He underwent a transplant operation two years later, which ultimately failed, and meant John had to undergo regular disruptive dialysis.

Ten years after diagnosis, and still struggling with the ill effects of kidney failure, John decided to go back to college, before enrolling on the Computing course at the University of Northampton in 2018.

His first year saw having to cope with regular dialysis and health problems, but he did well in his studies and even held down a part time job to fund his time at uni.

Student has major surgery

Towards the end of the first year, and a month before his crucial second assessment period, John went under the knife for a second transplant op. The procedure was a success, and now the 34 year old from Northampton is on the verge of graduating with flying colours.

John’s achievements led to his lecturers nominating him for the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists’ Outstanding Student of The Year national award – which he won.

“I have been a Lecturer at the University for 22 years,” said Deputy Head of Computing, Mark Johnson. “During these years, I haven’t seen an undergraduate student contribute as much to the University’s community as John.

“When you factor in his serious medical conditions, I believe that John truly deserves recognition for his achievements and the award is a fitting tribute to him.”

John, who has consistently achieved top marks throughout his uni life, has also taken on extra responsibilities, including classroom assistant, taking part in research projects and being a leading figure of the Computing Society.

“Having the operation at the end of my first year was the turning point for me,” said John. “Since then, I have been a lot healthier, with more energy and without any of the restrictions that I had before which is massive. Now it is just regular travel to Oxford Churchill Hospital for check ups.

“Before that, it was tougher. I was on dialysis, which consistently affected my life as I had to plan my schedule around my dialysis times. It was fortunate that Northampton’s Dialysis Unit is situated just across the road from the University. This of course affected my uni life as I had to be conservative with my energy, but I found myself in good company on the course, with lecturers who understood my difficulties.”

John added: “During my second year I had a very busy schedule between classroom assistant work, working part-time in Northampton General Hospital’s IT department, and my studies. It was really challenging overcoming this as I had never been so busy before. But it really shows a contrast between my first year and second year at university, and the difference between not being able to work and working a lot.”

Winning the WCIT award, when he was pitted against computing students from around the UK, was particularly pleasing for John.

He said: “Winning felt really amazing. I was being recognised on a local and a national level for outstanding commitments and achievements. It showed me that by committing yourself to excellence, there is a level of appreciation for hard work, sleepless nights and commitment. Being recognised really reverberated within me that I am on the path of excellence, during the current difficult times.”

Taking the plunge and applying to study Computing at Northampton is a decision that’s really worked out for John.

He said: “The last three years have been really challenging but I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment. I have met some great people and got acquainted with some great lecturers.

“One of the great things about studying at the University of Northampton is the wide range of areas within computing that is offered to us.

“This aspect has allowed me to narrow down the area I would like to specialise in after graduating, enabling me to shape my future career path. Whilst the past three years have been tough, the support given to me by the University has been in a consistent abundance which I am extremely grateful for and without it, I would not have been as successful as I have been.”

With graduation on the horizon, this summer, John’s looking forward to entering a new chapter in his career – but not before taking time to take stock of his achievements, and then cracking on.

He said: “My current plan is to have an overdue rest, it has been a very long year on top of all the extra work.”

“After graduation I would be considering my options. I will have a good foundation with my degree that will allow me to enter the software development industry. But I’m also considering continuing my education, and potentially work towards a PhD in the future.”