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All-terrain wheelchair will help UEA student achieve her career dreams

PUBLISHED: 11:36 28 January 2019

Gemma Bailey-Smith a student from the University of East Anglia (UEA) who has a genetic condition affecting her mobility is fundraising for a specialist wheelchair, so she can achieve her dream of working in the environmental sector. Picture: UEA

Gemma Bailey-Smith a student from the University of East Anglia (UEA) who has a genetic condition affecting her mobility is fundraising for a specialist wheelchair, so she can achieve her dream of working in the environmental sector. Picture: UEA

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A student from the University of East Anglia is fundraising for a specialist wheelchair to help her complete her degree and achieve her dream of working in the environmental sector.

Gemma attempting to use crutches on New Years Day at Ilkley Moore in Leeds, which she visited with friends. Picture: Gemma Bailey-SmithGemma attempting to use crutches on New Years Day at Ilkley Moore in Leeds, which she visited with friends. Picture: Gemma Bailey-Smith

In November, Gemma Bailey-Smith, an Environmental Assessment and Management masters student, was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a connective tissue disorder which causes spasms, joint dislocations and affects mobility.

A previously active person the diagnosis has left the 21-year-old who is from Harlington in Bedfordshire suffering from chronic pain, fatigue and has affected her mobility.

But determined not to let the condition hold her back Ms Bailey-Smith is hoping to raise £12,000 for an off-road all-terrain wheelchair which will allow her to complete her studies by taking part in a compulsory field trip later this year and enjoy the great outdoors once again.

The 21-year-old said: “I’ve lost my former active self and I now suffer daily with chronic pain and fatigue,

Gemma attempting to use her not fit-for-purpose wheelchair during a family walk over the Christmas break:  Picture: Gemma Bailey-SmithGemma attempting to use her not fit-for-purpose wheelchair during a family walk over the Christmas break: Picture: Gemma Bailey-Smith

“Coming to terms with having to use a wheelchair at the age of 21 has been really difficult, especially as I was previously really sporty.

“I used to love hiking holidays, I volunteered in Borneo, was an avid gymnast, and even competed with the university stunt cheer team, UEA Angels,” she said.

Specially designed for off-road environments, the all-terrain wheelchair will allow Ms Bailey-Smith to tackle environments such as woods, beaches and fields while preventing muscle wastage and limiting long-term damage to her joints.

It will also mean she won’t have to rely on crutches which can cause inflammation to her ribs.

She said: “I’ll be able to go on walks with my family and join my friends on strolls round the UEA broad, which I’ve been missing out on for the last four years I’ve been at university.”

Setting up a Gofundme page and holding a number of events to help raise the much needed cash for the new wheelchair Ms Bailey-Smith said having the support of her peers had been really encouraging.

She said: “Having the support from other students at this challenging time has been overwhelming. It feels like everyone is rooting for me and wants me to succeed in my fundraising goals.”

To donate to Ms Bailey-Smith’s fundraising page visit: gofundme.com/allterrain-wheelchair-funding

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