Brian Keeley

Brian encourages others to share their donation decision, after his live was saved by a heart transplant.

Brian Keeley is encouraging people to share their organ and tissue donation decision, as someone whose life was saved by a heart transplant.

In July 2013, Brian, then 50, was enjoying the final day of his holiday to Islay with his wife Bibo, when he suffered a massive heart attack. He was airlifted to the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, where he was kept alive in intensive care until he was eventually well enough to be listed for transplant in mid-October. Less than two weeks later he received the transplant that would transform his life.

Brian said:

“I had no previous heart condition or anything, so the heart attack came completely out of the blue. I only began to realise what had happened some weeks later, when the medical team began to bring me out of sedation. As a result of the heart attack I also had renal failure, respiratory failure and a stroke.

“I spent over three months in intensive care trying to get to a point where I was fit enough for a transplant even to be an option. My condition was so poor that we reached a point where palliative care was introduced, but fortunately things finally began to turn around – I came off the ventilator and my kidney function returned.

“In mid-October I was listed for transplant, and only two weeks later I had the transplant surgery. There’s so much discussion about being on the waiting list, but what I think a lot of people don’t know is that there’s also many people out there, in the situation that I was in, who aren’t yet on the waiting list as they’re trying to get well enough to be able to survive the procedure.

“Having a transplant is a life-changing experience. You can recover from the operation itself relatively quickly, but your life thereafter is totally transformed. I wasn’t really aware of the significance of the transplant at the time, as I was so sick before and had spent three and a half months lying on my back in intensive care. Post-transplant, I was still in intensive care, and the only real difference was that I didn’t have the pump-machine attached to me that was supporting my heart function, which meant that I could begin to get out of bed and learn to walk again. The transplant was really the turning point in my recovery and the exit was finally in sight.”

Commenting on the importance of sharing your donation decision, Brian said:

“If you wish to be a donor just make sure you register and share your views with those closest to you. I had been an organ donor card carrier since I was a teenager, but when I was younger I always assumed I was more likely to become a donor than a recipient.

“For a long time after my heart transplant, my priority was just trying to get through recovery, and for everyone involved throughout the process, I have a sense of gratitude that is beyond words.”

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