In January 2009, when she was just 16, Lizzie Smart was struck down by an infection in her throat, causing her brain to be starved of oxygen. But this determined young lady is not one to let anything stand in the way of her dreams.
"I remember having what I thought was just a sore throat," said Lizzie. "A family friend, who is also my GP, came round to check on me. She too thought it was just a sore throat. I can't remember the rest of the details, but I'm told by my parents things changed quite quickly after that."
The following evening, Lizzie was still feeling poorly and was struggling to swallow. The next morning, she collapsed. She was rushed to hospital where she was diagnosed with epiglottitis - an inflammation and swelling of the epiglottis, which is at the back of the throat. The swelling had restricted her breathing and starved her brain of oxygen.
"I was in a coma for six weeks," said Lizzie. "It took me quite a while to come out of it and when I did, I was completely blind.
"After around four months, my sight gradually began to return but I'm still visually impaired almost four years on. Apparently my eyes are fine - it's the wiring that's not quite working correctly.
"I was in hospital for two months, followed by a further seven months in a rehabilitation unit. At first, I couldn't even sit upright without support, let alone walk. In fact, I had no limb control at all in the early days.
"With a lot of determination and effort, I began to make good progress. In fact, I was so eager to get back to my studies that I went back to school while I was still living in the rehab unit.
"I'd missed most of a school year, having done just three months of my AS-Level courses before I got ill. But I was determined to get on with my life so I started studying for an A-Level in English Literature.
"Cognitively I was fine; my memory was OK and I didn't have any difficulties with information processing.
"My vision was my main challenge, coupled with fatigue, which was made harder by the fact I was still having my rehabilitation therapies.
"I was so proud when I got a B in my A-Level. It spurred me on to bigger and better things.
"I went on to complete a foundation degree in Events Management and I'm now studying for a BA honours degree in Hospitality Management."
Not content with defying the odds by getting her academic career back on track in such a short space of time, Lizzie also helped establish Headway Blackpool in 2010.
"Headway gave me a lot of help at first," explained Lizzie. "The booklets and factsheets from the national charity were really useful, so I was really keen to help set up a branch in Blackpool.
"Looking back, I can't see myself without having a brain injury. It's part of me but I won't let anything get in the way of me living my life to the full.
Nothing will stop me - not even a brain injury.
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