Marie Doran

Tourism student Marie Doran shares her story with us about how taking the big step to come back to college and retrain for a new career has helped change her life and given her a new direction.

I loved my old life as a support worker working for the learning disability team in Kilwinning. I helped people who had a learning disability to live independently in their day to day living. I had 30 clients a week and I supported them in various ways - shopping, budgeting, paying bills, attending meetings, arranging holidays. It was quite a challenging job but extremely satisfying and I felt I was making a difference. I attended college day release to achieve HNC Social Care. I was married with three children and was confident and happy with my life, but it turned out fate had other plans for me.

In 2011, I was involved in an accident and suffered a horrific injury to my back. I was on a bus and the driver took a corner too sharply and I fell off my seat and hurt my back. An MRI scan revealed that my spine had popped and I needed an operation immediately, any delay would result in me being paralysed.

My recovery has been a painful process. Not just physically but emotionally too. I was left with my left leg numb and had years of attending hospital and receiving physio. I lost my job through the accident and was told by one of my doctors that it was unlikely I would ever work again. I was completely unprepared for this and it put me under enormous strain mourning the loss of the life I had. My marriage broke down and I had to rely on my circle of friends to look after me and my children. I became depressed and began a rollercoaster ride of different emotions.

My condition is called Cauda Equine and having never heard of this before I researched it on line and discovered a Facebook page for ladies with this condition. This was just the lifeline I needed. The whole group were so supportive and inspirational and it was not long before I was Skyping other sufferers around the world and I finally started to take charge and feel in control of my body.

Around the same time, I made a new friend and he encouraged me to get back out there and meet people again. I am a people person and need the socialisation to stimulate me and get my positive outlook on life back. My first small step was volunteering in a local community centre as a secretary.

I have a passion for travel and always loved researching holidays for friends and family online and it started me thinking that maybe I could do something like this as a new career. It was time to focus on what I could do rather than what I couldn’t do! I applied for college and was interviewed almost immediately and the course started before I could lose my confidence.

Coming to college has been a big step for me to take but it was a positive step that gave me a purpose and an incentive to get out of bed in the morning. My class have been amazing – we all gelled right away and even at my lowest points when I thought of giving up they have encouraged me to keep going. I have had support from the inclusive learning team and the student services team. They have been a godsend and helped me overcome the difficulties I have had juggling a health condition with my college work.

I would encourage anyone reading this who might have a health problem or who is at a point in their life when their confidence is low, to seriously consider coming to college to help them rediscover their life. College is liberating – you have the freedom to think in different ways, discover new ideas and skills you never knew you had. I have started to focus on who I want to be rather than dwelling on who I’ve been so far. There is a whole new future opening up for me thanks to finding something I am passionate about. Doing something you enjoy definitely helps you get your confidence back.

My advice is to find a level of course you can cope with and don’t push too hard - at first take baby steps. Although I have a HNC in Social Care – I could not have managed the HNC Travel and Tourism first time around. The NC has been a perfect choice. I don’t feel stupid. It lays the foundations of learning about the tourism industry and I can’t wait to discover more. More than anything the NC Travel and Tourism course has given me the confidence I needed to push myself.

Ideally I would love to get back to work. I have a work ethos and I want to be a role model for my children and make them proud of me. I am also interested in doing some peer mentoring and using the skills I have to help others discover the joys of learning. I love researching travel, I particularly enjoy product management and my dream job would be in this area or working in a travel agency. My next mission is to get some relevant work experience so that I can start to make that dream a reality.