Mum-of-four Gemma Ladley is preparing to start a new career after leaving the Army and raising her family.
The 40-year-old signed up for the Armed Forces in 1996, having left school aged just 16.
For two years, she spent time in the Royal Signals, while her career would later take her to Germany, as well as spending time working in Air Traffic Control and as a civilian ambulance driver.
In 2005, Gemma left the Forces, split with her first husband and, for the next six years, worked as supervisor in a hardware store while raising her four children, now aged between 11 and 21.
In 2011, she moved to the North East after her father, Anthony, became unwell and was left in a coma.
Gemma said: “I had to make a lot of decisions during a difficult time. I knew my dad would want me to do what was best for my kids and my career.
“He has always said to me that I should pursue a career in medicine and becoming a paramedic was something that really appealed to me.”
Anthony died in 2014 and, sadly in 2017, Gemma’s brother, Sean, also died following a cardiac arrest.
Hoping to start a new life, Gemma attended a University of Sunderland open event in February 2018.
She said: “It was exactly what I’d been looking for and I started the Paramedic Science and out of Hospital Care degree two months later.
For the next three years, Gemma juggled her studies with being a mum.
She said: “I loved every minute of being at University, it was exactly what I wanted to do and got so much support from Wellbeing there.
“I think being a mature student also helped as you have that life experience and you’re at that stage in life where you know exactly what you want.”
After graduating, Gemma has now started her career with the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS).
She added: “Now is my chance to give something back and I really feel like this is a new start for me.”