By Amanda Boundris
June 21, 2012
For many post-secondary students, the end of the school year is predictable.
You’ve just finished your last exam in April and four months of freedom await; no classes, no instructors, just a summer job and good times with friends and family before heading back to the grind in September.
But if you’re Mohawk College student Michael Rosati, each break between school years meant having facial reconstruction surgery, at least a month of recovery, then working the rest of the summer at a retirement home before returning to class in the fall.
Despite the obstacles he’s faced, Rosati was one of 445 students who graduated from the McMaster Mohawk Conestoga Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) Program on June 15 at Hamilton Place.
The 22-year-old was born with Crouzon syndrome, a rare genetic disorder characterized by the premature fusion of certain skull bones, which prevents the skull from growing normally and affects the shape of the head and face. Symptoms are very pronounced features, especially in the face, including: low-set ears; the appearance of a short and broad head; and compressed nasal passage. Hearing loss, vision and dental problems are also common. Surgery is typically required to prevent damage to the brain.
Rosati has had over 25 cranial-facial surgeries since his first year of life, performed at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto. The Stoney Creek native said he wanted to become a nurse because of the great care he has received and the fact that his mother has been a nurse for 30 years.
"I’m a product of a hospital and this is my way of giving back,' said Rosati. "To me, I’ve grown up having surgeries so it’s the norm. The hospital is a temporary home. I’ve grown up there.'
After his first year of nursing studies, his upper jaw was brought forward 22 mm. After second-year, his bottom jaw was brought 17 mm forward. Before entering his final year, his nose was corrected.
Rosati has also had two ribs removed and used in his head, and three shunts and several titanium plates put in his head over the years.
Though his challenges have been mainly physical, his condition also disrupted his schooling. In Grade 6 he was at a third-grade reading level because of the numerous surgeries and the on average three-month long hospital stays he endured. He needed one-on-one attention to catch up with his peers, but graduated from Grade 8 with honours – a big milestone for him because "From then on, I was on par with everyone else,' he said.
Rosati, who just started working full-time in the Clinical Neurosciences Unit of the Hamilton General Hospital, said he doesn’t let the social stigma around his appearance affect him.
"I’m used to it. I could take it down a positive road or a negative road. I choose the positive side of life because it has been challenging, but I am just grateful for being healthy and happy,' he said. "I look at myself in the mirror and I say ‘This is who I am and I’m happy with it.’'
In addition to the BScN degrees that were awarded at McMaster University’s morning convocation ceremony on June 15, five PhD and three master’s nursing students received graduate degrees. Graduates in medical radiation sciences also received their degrees at the ceremony.
An honorary Doctor of Science degree was conferred on Nancy Edwards, a professor with the University of Ottawa’s School of Nursing and Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine; director of the Community Health Research Unit; and scientific director of the Institute of Population and Public Health in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
In her address, Edwards spoke about the importance of inquiry. "Without inquiry, we stop learning about how to make things better for all people,' she said, adding that the new graduates have certainly gained skills in this area from McMaster.
McMaster President Patrick Deane told the graduating class he was pleased that "Many of you are open to active engagement with the globe.'
He added that "The need to make a difference is characteristic of this generation,' and that this makes him proud to be associated with the group.