Student had bed placed in school to overcome sleeping disorder

Paul Cannon scored 510 points despite challenges

Student had bed placed in school to overcome sleeping disorder

An 18-year-old Donegal student used a bed placed in his school to help overcome a chronic sleeping disorder and achieve the Leaving Certificate results he needed.

Paul Cannon from Donegal town scored 510 points in the exams despite having to overcome huge challenges.

Paul suffers from narcolepsy, a rare long-term brain disorder that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times.

He acquired it as a 12-year-old as a side effect of the swine flu vaccination.

The Abbey Vocational School in Donegal town had special room built with a bed, a show and a toilet, to allow Paul to sleep at any time he needed to during his final year in the school.

He is also heavily medicated to help him deal with the condition.

The exams were so challenging because Paul could only stay awake for about half an hour at the time due to the extra brain activity required.

He sat his exams in school and at home under special supervision. A number of his exams lasted up to seven hours, when rest periods for Paul to sleep were taken into account, and he was still sitting some of the papers at 11 pm.

Paul, who is also a talented footballer and soccer player, achieved the points he needed to study physics with biomedical sciences at Dublin City University.

He achieved his academic success with the support of school's teaching staff, special needs assistants and home tutors.

He arranged his study and classes around his need to sleep regularly, only coming to school at lunchtime, and having home tution in the evenings.

“I was coming in at 12 or one, at least I could get in at around that time and then have a half hour nap and then go to two or three classes. When You are sleeping in an unfamiliar environment it was easier to get up.”

Paul said while the exams were “tough” but he was determined to persevere to achieve what he needed despite the challenges handed to him by narcolepsy.

“You can't change what happened,” he said about acquiring the condition.

Principal of Abbey Vocational School Geraldine Diver, said Paul’s exam results were a fantastic achievement. “It just shows how challenges can be overcome by anyone. We can all learn from it. It is a great lesson that you can overcome a problem if you set your mind to it.”

See Thursday’s Donegal Democrat for more.