She has a metal plate, a metal bolt and metal rods in her head, and the back of her neck “looks like a racetrack or a candy cane” because of cuts made for the insertion of shunts.

But for Erin Goldrick, school has always been the most important thing to focus on.

“My parents — they’ve helped me out a lot,” said Goldrick, 18, of Hampton Bays. “They told me ‘education first.’ My dad said, ‘There’s only a little amount of time [to spend in school] to set up the rest of your life.’ ”

When she was 2, Goldrick was diagnosed with Chiari malformation, a complex brain condition that results in the brain tissue extending to the spinal cord, as well as hydrocephalus, in which fluid accumulates in the brain and spinal cord.

Symptoms of the conditions include pain behind the eyes, severe headaches, ringing in the ears, poor coordination and fainting.

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“If the shunts stop working the fluid in the brain can build up, and it’s like the brain strangles itself,” Goldrick said. She has had 26 operations to address both conditions, and one year had nine brain surgeries.

“Sometimes I can’t really function; I won’t be able to go to school,” Goldrick said. “I can’t even walk, or barely see or handle noises . . . it can be debilitating.”

But her many hospital stays helped Goldrick decide what she wants to do with her life — become a nurse.

“I think it was all the time I spent with them,” Goldrick said. “Each touched me personally and I built friendships. They made me feel like I wasn’t sick, and I want to do that for someone else.”

HIGHER ED: Goldrick will attend SUNY Farmingdale and major in nursing.

FRESHMAN FAST-FORWARD: “I’m looking forward to building friendships and learning more about nursing, the ins and outs and everything about it.”

WHAT MAKES YOU EXTRAORDINARY: “I see things from a different perspective. I know nothing is set in stone. I can’t take anything for granted.”