Fiona and Lee Sanchez completed their respective degrees, whilst juggling parenting and the homeschooling of their three children, Regan, 11, Keelin 6, and Brodie 4, during lockdown.
Originally due to graduate in December, Fiona, 34, graduated on Friday with a Master of Science in (Pre-Registration) Occupational Therapy with a merit, after deferring her dissertation module to care for her mother who had breast cancer.
However this meant she got to graduate in the same week as her 45-year old husband Lee, “which was really nice”, Fiona says.
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Bamber Bridge born Lee, who worked as an administrator for Speed Medical Examination Services alongside his degree, graduated two days earlier with a first in Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Human Resource Management, as well as being awarded the LSBE School prize for excellent performance.
The couple, who have been married for 13 years, have now both secured jobs in the NHS- Fiona as a paediatric occupational therapists with the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust and Lee as a Medical HR Workforce Administrator at the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust.
Explaining how hectic their studies have been, Fiona said: “Lockdown was a massive hit because there were some days where we'd have lectures on the go either side of the table, and then the eldest two would have their home schooling stuff going on at the same time, so that was really, really difficult.
“Lee went on the out of hours team at work, so I was predominantly out on placement, and he’d do the home schooling, and then I get home and pick up the homeschooling, and he'd go to work, so we were very much like ships in the night.
“It's a bit of a blur to think back to actually, I couldn't do it again. If we were about to start our courses, and someone said there's a global pandemic about to hit, your mom's gonna get breast cancer, I would probably have said no I won’t bother, but now we're on the good side of it and we're both in roles that we enjoy.
“We’ve also just had our first two weekends, where neither of us had been working or studying in four years, which has been amazing!”
Fiona’s mother, Rowena Mattocks, was given the all clear from cancer last August and Fiona says they “wouldn't have been able to do any of this without” the support of her or Lee’s mum, particularly when Covid hit the family in January this year.
Rowena added: “She took time out to look after me, her dad had other problems as well, so she was worrying about him, and then there was lockdown and the kids being homeschooled…but she’s done it and I won't say I can't believe it, because I can.
“She's also dyslexic, but even with all that as well, she's just got on with it and I am really proud of her, and her husband as well, doing his degree at the same time. It would have been easy to just think hang on there's too much going on, but no they didn’t.”