From patient to doctor – Consultant with cerebral palsy hopes to inspire others

 Dr Kirsty Colquhoun,now a consultant at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

By Lucy Ashton

An NHSGGC consultant with cerebral palsy has gone from patient to doctor, and is keen to inspire others with her journey.

Kirsty Colquhoun has the lifelong neurological condition with affects a person’s movement, balance and coordination and sometimes other functions.  No two people with cerebral palsy are the same and it affects people to different degrees.  There are 17 million people worldwide with the condition, and though there are treatments available there is no cure.

Born with spastic diplegia (a form of cerebral palsy), Kirsty was inspired herself by the care she received at Yorkhill Children’s Hospital.  Determined not to let the condition hold her back from pursuing her dreams to help others, Kirsty went on to study medicine at the University of Glasgow – graduating in 2006, and also gaining a Bachelor’s degree in pharmacology.

Now, 16 years later, 38 year old Kirsty is a consultant geriatrician working between Stobhill, the Beatson, and Glasgow Royal Infirmary – helping thousands of patients over her career, including looking after some of the sickest patients throughout COVID-19. Kirsty is also a trustee for Cerebral Palsy Scotland.

Her story comes as the world celebrates World Cerebral Palsy (Wed 06 Oct) day which aims to ensure that children and adults with cerebral palsy have the same rights, access and opportunities as anyone else in our society.

Kirsty said: “I’ve never let my condition hold me back and I think that’s an important message we want to get out to people with cerebral palsy this year. You can do what you want to do, and while challenges remain for young and older people with cerebral palsy, there are networks and support available for people with cerebral palsy and for employers to make sure they’re able to facilitate people with the condition so that everyone can benefit. 

Kirsty, who has spent her entire career with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, added:  “NHSGGC has always supported me and valued my contribution. As an equal opportunities employer, they recognise me as an integral part of the team and have provided support to enable me to do my job to the best of my ability. For example, within the team I work in, Older People’s Services in Glasgow Royal Infirmary, while excellence is expected – disability or not – just as important is the ethos of kindness, support and wellbeing.  When I had to, for the first time, take time off due to my Cerebral Palsy being affected by long hours on COVID wards – I was given the time and support I needed to get better.

“I know that not all people with disabilities have the same positive experience that I do and I wish I could bottle the inclusivity that I experience for others.  Regardless of my disability I am valued just the same as everyone else as a professional and colleague, and diversity, and the experience it brings is celebrated.”

To recognise and celebrate World Cerebral Palsy Day, The Queen Elizabeth University in Glasgow  will light up green, alongside hundreds of other buildings across the world.

Stuart Gaw, general manager for Older People’s Services in the South at NHSGGC, said:  “Kirsty is a real positive role model, not only as a cerebral palsy campaigner, but as a consultant within NHSGGC. She is a real asset to the team and more importantly, to the patients she looks after as a geriatrician.

“At NHSGGC we are proud to be able to offer opportunities and support people to achieve their dreams and progress in their career when appropriate  and make the most of their talents.  Kirsty is a shining example of someone who has not let their disability hold them back and has flourished in their chosen area of work.”

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