Battler David's college joy

IT was a miracle that David Aitchison survived longer than 15 minutes after he was born ...

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James Watt College Student of the Year David with mum Gillian
James Watt College Student of the Year David with mum Gillian

but now the 20-year-old has defied all odds to be his college's Student of the Year.

David was born with a very rare condition, Goldenhar syndrome, leaving him with facial malformations, brain damage and heart problems.

Doctors did not believe he could survive and, at three months, told his parents to take him home from hospital to be christened.

But – thanks to immense family support and the skill of specialists at Yorkhill hospital – David has thrived.

And now he's won the top award from James Watt College where he has been studying for the past two years.

His proud dad Peter, said: "Graduation was the best day of my life and the best day of David's life.

"There were 4,000 students there for the graduation so for David to be Student of the Year was just something else.

"He wasn't Disabled Student of the Year – he was just Student of the Year.

"This is the guy who shouldn't have survived 15 minutes.

"He was very, very proud and we were cock-a-hoop."

David's mum Gillian, 47, had a normal pregnancy but went into labour five weeks early.

David was whisked to intensive care and the family was told he was struggling to breathe and had a cleft lip and palate.

In fact, David had no right side to his face, no nose, and needed a tracheotomy tube put in to help him breathe.

His heart is on the wrong side of his body and has a hole in it. And he had water on the brain, which meant he needed a cranial shunt put under the skin on his head. He is also profoundly deaf.

Only 75 children in the UK are thought to have Goldenhar syndrome and not much is known about what causes the condition.

David, from Lochwinnoch, had a long battle to health – including dozens of operations to reconstruct parts of his face, and open heart surgery.

David, who is big brother to Jenny, 19, and 14-year-old Jack, is also on the autistic spectrum.

But his parents have always been determined he would live as normal a life as possible and enrolled him in St Vincent's School for the Deaf at Tollcross.

David's talent for video games developed while he was at school. And in August 2010 the Evening Times told how David was setting off to college.

He began a two-year course in computing and web design at James Watt College, in Greenock.

David is unable to speak, meaning British Sign Language (BSL), and not English, is his first language.

At college he relies on the support of his BSL interpreter, Liz Gibson, to help him in classes.

Liz, who nominated him for the award, said: "Although David suffers from a number of difficulties, he has never let this impact on his abilities as a learner.

"He works very hard in all the classes he attends and is a shining example to many of his classmates.

"It is an honour for me to work with David."

Gillian added: "The college phoned up to say he had won the award and when I told David we were so happy we were dancing around the kitchen.

"It's just lovely for him. David just takes things in his stride but he was really, really pleased about this. I was worried about him going off to college but James Watt has given him so much support."

David will now continue at college for another year and his parents hope he will go on to work.

Peter, 48, added: "David makes video games and does programming that is really quite complicated.

"David has passed every single exam in two-and-a-half years at the college.

"Every day he wakes up and wants to go to college and he studies every night.

"He's even made friends there. David just touches anyone who meets him – people are just taken by him.

"He now talks to us in the way a young man should talk to his parents and he talks about emotions in the way a young man should do.

"Because he is autistic, he focuses very much on the here and now but he has started to look ahead –we've noticed a big leap in his development.

"David teaches us to be grateful for what we have got."

catriona.stewart@eveningtimes.co.uk

Education

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