A student who had to delay his studies twice to care for his sick mum is celebrating after finally graduating from Swansea University.
Kieran Sawdon, aged 23, grew up as registered carer for mum Lynne, who suffered from a number of ailments including arthritis, coronary heart disease and fibromyalgia.
After starting at university in September 2014, Kieran’s journey hit a setback when his mum suffered a stroke in his second year.
Following treatment at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend, Lynne returned home and Kieran was able to begin what was meant to be his third and final year in the autumn.
“It’s always just been me and her really,” said Kieran, who studied Ancient History. “I have been in the back of an ambulance with her more times than I can count.
“After mum had had the stroke and I started my final year, I just felt numb. I felt as though I should have been at home looking after her.
“My studies got progressively worse and it took a toll on my mental health which resulted in the University offering me the chance to re-sit my last year.”
The stress Kieran endured led to a breakdown.
“I was barely able to move or eat,” he said. “I would usually just start spontaneously crying if I wasn’t sleeping.
“I stopped attending university because I just couldn’t see the point in doing anything anymore – it was almost like the world was against me.”
After suspending his studies, Kieran was able to return to university in September 2018 to begin his final year.
But everything changed when Lynne suffered a heart attack at their home in Maesteg.
“That was the worst moment for me,” he said. “After being in hospital she returned home but new medication set off another of her illnesses and she nearly died.
“At this point my work was suffering once more but my attitude was that I needed to be there for her. That was all that mattered.”
Despite his dedication to his mum, Kieran never gave up on his academic dream.
His perseverance paid off as he threw himself back into his final few months earlier this year.
“I had missed an awful lot of work, as well as preparation for my dissertation,” he said. “I basically had less than three months to write four assignments and start and finish my dissertation.
“I locked myself in the library for hours on end, day after day, and managed to do it. I had finally won.”
He added: “Dr Maria Pretzler has been instrumental and I wholeheartedly believe that I couldn’t have done it without her help and support,” said Kieran, who will return to Swansea University in September to start a Master’s in International Management.
“I’m happy that after five long years I get to see a certificate that puts BA on the end of my name, and to finally be able to wear that cap and gown will mean everything.”
One person who will be as proud as anyone is Kieran’s mum Lynne.
“I felt so guilty over these past years that my health affected his studies so much, even to the stage where I would just try to hide it all from him sometimes,” she said.
“With all of the work he has had to do to get this far he deserves this degree. I can’t express how proud I am of him and how proud I am to be his mother.”