Published: Friday, December 20th, 2013
Christmas miracle at the Golden Jubilee
The Golden Jubilee National Hospital (GJNH) is celebrating the gift of life, as a recent heart transplant patient, Brian Keeley, 51, goes home for Christmas with his family.
Last summer, Brian and his, now wife, Bibo were getting ready to come home from a holiday touring the Scottish Islands, finishing with Islay, when he began to have severe chest pains. He was taken to Islay Hospital, where he was transferred by air ambulance to the Golden Jubilee.
Brian was diagnosed with a major blockage in his main heart artery, requiring a series of emergency operations.
Dr Mark Petrie, Director of the SNAHFS commented on Brian's condition, saying: "This is an extremely serious condition; in fact it is usually fatal. During the operation, Brian went in to cardiac arrest and had to be fitted with a resuscitation device called an Autopulse (a non-invasive cardiac support pump which keeps circulation going through the body) and a stent inserted a into the blocked main heart artery."
In spite of this emergency treatment, Brian's condition continued to deteriorate, resulting in him being placed on a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) which acts as a mechanical heart.
Discussing the heart attack and his treatment at the GJNH, Brian said: "It came completely out of the blue. I've always been very fit and active; there was nothing in my lifestyle which flagged it up. I was put on a VAD, I've been told that the recommendation is that you aren't on one of these for more than 30 days, I was on it for three months."
Brian's only option was an emergency heart transplant. Over the course of the next three months, Brian had to be given a tracheostomy which he was kept on for two months, undergo dialysis to restore kidney function and several other treatments in an attempt to improve his condition enough to be placed on the transplant list.
During this time, however, something changed in Brian's life: "We didn't really know what the outcome was going to be, so Bibo and I decided to get married. It was organised in 24 hours, we did it in the Intensive Care Unit, which was literally where I lay with a couple of pillows to prop me up. Several of our relatives came, and there were loads of nurses there, sitting outside crying.
"In some ways that was a turning point, I certainly felt more of a determination to come out of this. I couldn't stay in the position I was in forever. From that point I started getting better and eventually the medical team agreed I was ready for a transplant."
Just two weeks after being added to the emergency transplant list, a donor was found and Brian underwent a successful heart transplant.
He said: "The heart is doing fine; it's beating away and now it's just all about the physiotherapy. Because I had been lying on my back for three months, I have no strength in my body so it's pretty intense daily.
The biggest thing for me is that I feel normal again. The Golden Jubilee is just absolutely fantastic; the staff, the surgeons, everyone is just absolutely amazing."
Dr Mark Petrie, commenting on Brian's recovery, stated: "As a cardiologist this is incredibly rare. When people present with these conditions it is generally highly unlikely they will survive. As little as three or five years ago, Brian wouldn't have pulled through.
"The advances in modern technology in recent years, for example the Autopulse and VADs, have been absolutely fantastic and we are delighted to be able to help people like Brian not only survive such serious heart attacks and enjoy a high quality of life, but in this case, get home in time to spend Christmas with his new bride and his family."
Having been recently discharged from the Golden Jubilee for the first time since July, Brian, a trained artist, discussed what he plans to do with his new found lease of life:
"I've been working on an art project while I've been here, I've been taking photographs of some of the staff in ICU and I'm looking to make a series of portrait paintings from these, kind of as a tribute to the staff here. I'm also considering writing a book about my experiences to let people know what all of this is like from the patient's perspective. These are all things that could get me back into something more creative, which is what I really want to do.
"The dedication of the staff, and the kind of things that they do here, is absolutely breathtaking... truly astonishing.
"I can't stress enough the importance of organ donation and letting your family and loved ones know your wishes, should the worst happen. If someone hadn't done this, I wouldn't be alive today."
Minister for Public Health, Michael Matheson MSP, commented on Brian's case, saying: "I am delighted that Brian and Bibo are now preparing for a happy Christmas together following Brian's heart transplant.
"Organ transplants save lives and stories like Brian's are an important reminder of the generosity and thoughtfulness of those who donated their organs for the purposes of transplantation. The reality is that around 600 people in Scotland are waiting for a life-saving transplant, and, across the UK three people die every day because they don't get the transplant that they need in time.
"It's therefore really important that people let their loved ones know what their organ donation wishes are so that those wishes can be respected in the event of their death."
The Scottish Organ Donation Campaign and the Golden Jubilee National Hospital encourage everyone to have a conversation with their family, friends and loved ones to let them know they want to be an organ donor. For more information, and to join the Organ Donor Register, head over to www.organdonationscotland.org.