Hartlepool student makes the grade after beating anorexia

Jennifer Matthews who has just qualified as a Bachelor of Dental Surgery and is a recovering anorexic.
Jennifer Matthews who has just qualified as a Bachelor of Dental Surgery and is a recovering anorexic.

A Hartlepool student who fought from the brink of death to overcome anorexia has graduated with honours.

Jennifer Matthews will start work as a dentist in a little over a month after completing her course at the University of Sheffield.

But six years ago, she was just hours from death after being rushed to hospital with the eating disorder.

Doctors told her that if she had not been admitted to the University Hospital of Hartlepool, she would have died that day as she was so weak. At her lowest point, she weighed just 5st.

The former English Martyrs Sixth Form pupil missed four months of college and taught herself using books teachers had sent to her in hospital, but walked away with three A* grades in chemistry, maths and biology.

Now she has completed a five-year course at Sheffield and will start work in Middlesbrough next month.

“I start work for a year from September – it could have been anywhere in England, but it just happens to be along the road from the hospital where I was when I was ill,” she said.

“I will be driving past the hospital every day, but I don’t think it will have any effect.”

Jennifer, 23, from Bishop Cuthbert, admits it was only when she was on the road to recovery that she realised how seriously ill she had really been.

“I have spoken to people who tell me they cried after they had seen me when I was at my lowest,” she said.

“They cried because they really thought I was going to die. When I look back and think about how close I was, it does make me feel proud of myself.”

Jennifer is hugely grateful to bosses at Sheffield University, who took a chance on her despite her illness.

“I want to say ‘thank you’ to Sheffield University for giving me the chance,” she said.

“They invited me down to have a look at me and I had to request leave from hospital to go for the interview. The support I have had from them has been amazing.”