Student forced to quit uni to give mum his kidney

Daniel Autumn with mum Carolyne Douglas
Daniel Autumn with mum Carolyne Douglas
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A STUDENT who wants to donate a kidney to his sick mother faces losing his place at university if he goes ahead with the life-saving operation.

After gruelling tests, Daniel Autumn, a second-year psychology student at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, found he is a perfect match for mum Carolyne Douglas, whose health is deteriorating rapidly.

The transplant could go ahead within months, but Daniel, who faces a bill of more than £1800 for university tuition fees, will be unable to work for up to 12 weeks while he recuperates.

Daniel, who had planned to work over the summer to pay the bill, says the university refused to allow him to defer payment or pay the sum off once he returns to health. The student, who lives with his mother in Quarrybank Close, spoke with a student adviser at the university’s advice hub, his lecturer, a professor and the finance department, pleading for help.

Ms Douglas, 44, who is forced to undergo hours of dialysis three times a week because of her degenerative condition, said: “It’s just a horrible situation. I want the transplant as soon as possible, but I don’t want my son to give up his education.

“I think what he’s doing is amazing. At first I didn’t want to accept it, but he’s an intelligent young man.

“We’ve discussed it and decided it’s best for everyone, but it is horrible to think your son is going through a major operation and the dangers involved.”

Ms Douglas, who is also mother to 23-year-old Kirsty, 18-year-old Alan and Jamie, 16, worked at a food outlet before she had to give up work.

Daniel, 25, is determined to go ahead with the procedure regardless of the threat to his university career.

He passed the first year of his course in Newcastle, but transferred to Heriot-Watt so he could care for his mother.

He has to pay fees as he failed the second year of his course and had to repeat it while struggling to care for his mother. He says he has offered a payment plan but his pleas fell on deaf ears at the university, which said he must pay up in full by mid-August.

“I’ve been to quite a few places and explained the situation, but they’ve just said it’s university policy and there’s nothing they can do,” he said.

“It’s all just added to an already stressful situation.”

Daniel has set up an internet fundraising page in a desperate attempt to raise the money.

He said: “Everybody keeps saying that donating my kidney is amazing and brave, but it’s my mother and it’s not something I thought twice about.

“I was relieved when I found out I was a match, but scared as well. They told me I could die, which is never a fun thing to hear, but I’ve never changed my mind or wavered.”

A spokeswoman from Heriot-Watt University said: “We are very sorry to hear about the problems that Daniel and his family are facing.

“Heriot-Watt offers a variety of student support services and had agreed payment options with Daniel before the recent change in his family’s circumstances.

“We would strongly recommend, as previously advised, that Daniel applies to the student hardship fund on the basis of his current circumstances. The university will work with him to see what steps can be taken to resolve his situation.”


Carolyne Douglas is undergoing three hours of hemodialysis three times a week – a process to remove waste from the blood before returning it to the body.

Daniel said: “Mum was always the life and soul and did everything around the house, but since she became ill there’s been a complete difference. We just want her to be back to herself and healthy again.”

On average, kidneys from living donors last about 15 years and vastly improve the recipient’s quality of life. The transplant operation takes around three hours, and the new kidney usually begins functioning immediately.

A person can lead an active, normal life with one kidney. When one of the pair is removed, the remaining organ increases in size and capacity to compensate.