Former TCC student with Huntington’s disease gets letter of achievement

Former TCC student with Huntington's disease gets letter of achievement

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – Laurie Clay, 51, was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease 23 years ago, a disorder that causes nerve cells in the brain to die. Her mother Marie Clay says it’s been a tough battle.

The disease prevented her from graduating from Tidewater Community College.

“Laurie needs 100% percent assistance. She’s non-verbal and is on a feed drip. On days I think I’m having a bad day, I have to blow it off because I can’t compare,” Marie Clay said.

Laurie’s father died with Huntington’s disease. Children of people with Huntington’s disease have a 50-50 chance of inheriting the disease which is incurable, according to the National Institute of Health.

Laurie’s mother, son and partner all care for her daily.

“In 2000, she was diagnosed. He (her son) was about 2 years old. It hit us hard. Laurie decided immediately she was no longer going to drive,” Clay said.

Because of the disease, Laurie could no longer finish her chemical engineering degree at Tidewater Community College. Laurie only had one more semester to complete in order to get her degree.

“She was constantly studying,” Clay said.

23 years later, TCC presented Laurie with a letter of achievement and a cap and gown. They released this statement saying:

“It is a privilege for Tidewater Community College to acknowledge the efforts of Ms. Clay and celebrate her life alongside her family. We are proud to have Ms. Clay as part of the TCC alumni community and it was my honor to present her and her family with her Certificate of Achievement.”

Dr. Michelle Woodhouse Vice President of Academic Affairs and Chief Academic for Tidewater Community College

Dr. Michelle Woodhouse Vice President of Academic Affairs and Chief Academic for Tidewater Community College

 “She’s always wanted to be a chemical engineer. She worked very hard, for this to come to fruition is a blessing,” Clay said.

Laurie and her partner Michael Harris recently celebrated their anniversary. They have a 26-year old son.

“He spent all of his high school years, staying home taking care of his mother while I worked nights. He didn’t date, go to games or dances,” Harris said,

Laurie’s favorite hobby is watching the Baltimore Orioles baseball team.

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