Preston student graduates despite suffering cardiac arrest during course

Posted on - 11th December, 2016 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Preston News, UCLan
Gemma was back in the exam hall just 10 days after her cardiac arrest

Gemma was back in the exam hall just 10 days after her cardiac arrest

A student studying in Preston who had a cardiac arrest during her course has graduated.


Mum-of-two Gemma Vignali was three months of the way into a community specialist practitioner course at the University of Central Lancashire.

She was told she needed to undergo a routine operation but while she was in theatre her heart stopped beating.

The 32-year-old recovered in eight days and just 10 days after her near death experience she attended university to sit an exam.

The mum of Ellena, four, and two-year-old Ava said: “The experience of this destroyed both me and my family. It was such a shock for us all. I was in a very bad way for a while and I think it was a lot harder for my husband to cope as we have two young children and it was totally out of the blue.

“I don’t really remember much about that time so I’m not sure how I managed to think about my exam, never mind get to University and sit it.

I’m stunned I actually managed to pass it however the endless amount of support from UCLan was amazing. I wouldn’t have finished the course without their help, in particular my personal tutor Georgina Richie and my practice teacher Wendy Byrne.”

Read more: That moment a UCLan graduation ceremony stopped

Gemma, from Darwen, completed her nursing undergraduate course at UCLan back in 2010 and returned to undertake the specialist course five year later. She was one of 1,500 graduates who donned a cap and gown at Preston’s Guild Hall and she was watched by her very proud lecturer husband Gianpaolo and her mum.

The former St Bede’s High School pupil said: “I am absolutely over the moon that I’ve graduated as a community specialist practitioner. I think I’m still in shock after all that happened. It’s been really hard work but I’m so proud I’ve achieved this.”

She added: “I am now eight months into my new post as a district nursing sister so I am still finding my feet. However, I hope to return to UCLan so I can take the path of teaching others how to fulfil this role.”

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