Published: Thursday, December 18th, 2014

It's a wonderful life



Heart transplant patient Brian Keeley is paying tribute to the staff of the Golden Jubilee National Hospital with a series of paintings one year after they saved his life.

Brian made headlines around the country last year, after making a miraculous recovery following an emergency heart transplant at the Golden Jubilee. At the time, however, the outlook for Brian was uncertain as for several months he was too ill to even be considered for a transplant.

Brian said: “I felt like I wasn’t going to make it; time seemed to be running out by the day, so my partner Bibo and I decided to get married in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital.”

Their wedding turned out to be a major turning point. Within weeks, Brian was able to receive his transplant, making it home in time to celebrate Christmas with his family and new bride.

One year on, Brian is paying tribute to the staff of the Golden Jubilee, painting portraits from pictures he took while a patient in the ICU.

He commented: “A few days after my transplant, I began taking portrait photographs of some of the people who had been caring for me. At the time, I was so weak I could barely hold the camera still long enough to fire off a few shots. I was an artist and art teacher previously: my eyesight, coordination and dexterity have all deteriorated as a result of my illness, so it has been difficult to re-learn what used to come naturally, but I think it’s important to acknowledge, in some small way, how much they did for me, so I have been making paintings of the photographs of the team and I hope to exhibit the paintings at some point in 2015.

“The experience of suddenly becoming critically ill and being given the chance of a new life by having the heart transplant has been a life-changing one. I have come to realise how fragile life is and I am determined to make the most of it.”

In addition to preparing to celebrate another Christmas, Brian and Bibo recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary. Brian commented: “When we got married, we literally had no idea what, if any, future we might have. As the first year became a reality, we decided to celebrate with a modest degree of style, booking into a country house hotel on the north Aberdeenshire coast.

“Because we never had the opportunity to do it on our wedding day, we got dressed up for breakfast: the staff actually thought we were guests for a wedding scheduled to arrive later that day, so I guess we got it right. It was a fantastic and emotional way to celebrate a day we feared we would never see.”

Brian continues to attend the Golden Jubilee for regular check-ups, recently attending the annual heart transplant patient’s lunch, meeting other transplant patients to share experiences and stories of their time at the Jubilee.


“People have said my recovery was a miracle, I always reply that if that’s true, then the team at the Golden Jubilee are the miracle workers. When I think back to it, I am overwhelmed by the tireless efforts and unflinching dedication of the staff. Their sheer professionalism, positivity and even humour in the face of difficult situations is astonishing. I owe the greatest debt of gratitude to each and every member of staff who played their part in keeping me alive, and helping me on the road to recovery.”

The Golden Jubilee National Hospital is the home of the Scottish National Advanced Heart Failure Service (SNAHFS), providing all adult heart transplants for the NHS in Scotland.

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