Couple living with MND finally say ‘I do’

Brian Murphy, who was given a heart-breaking diagnosis of motor neurone disease (MND) just six months into his new relationship with partner Gillian, has finally tied the knot after months of waiting for Covid restrictions to lift.

The Glasgow couple, who worked together at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, got together in 2018 and just six months later, in February 2019, received the devastating news that Brian had MND.

MND is a rapidly progressing terminal illness, which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles. This may cause someone to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink or breathe unaided.

Brian (48), who was a consultant cardiologist before he had to stop working due to the illness, said: “When I was told I had MND I had not long begun my relationship with Gillian and was supposed to be starting a new chapter in my life. Then to be given that diagnosis was heart-breaking. I was utterly devastated. I knew what it meant. There’s no hope of treatment, of stalling it or getting any better. So, you have to cope with thinking about that, on top of the physical deterioration.

“I thought Gillian and I couldn’t continue our relationship, but she’s stayed with me and has been an amazing support. I couldn’t have been looked after better and know I would be much worse without Gillian in my life.

“The worst thing I’ve ever had to do was telling my kids about the diagnosis. I just can’t help thinking about everything I’ll miss in their lives and knowing I won’t be there for them. Days like our wedding day are so special, creating these precious memories together.”

Gillian (49), a specialist nurse in cardiology, said: “I’m totally in love with Brian and there wasn’t one part of me that considered not being on this journey with him, even though he gave me the option. Some people go through life and never experience this feeling with someone or have what we have together – I wasn’t going to give that up.

“We both knew it was going to be a massive challenge but being a nurse I knew what was going to be involved and I feel like that knowledge has helped us stay one step ahead of MND. We work really hard at finding the balance between me caring for Brian and maintaining our relationship as partners.”

In March 2020 when the country went into lockdown, Brian and Gillian initially made the decision not to see each other, because Gillian was still working at the hospital.

She said: “I was so scared of bringing covid back from the hospital to Brian so for the first seven weeks, other than dropping off food and supplies, we didn’t see each other. It was so hard not being together when you don’t know how much time you have.”

Brian, who is now bound to a wheelchair and uses a ventilator to help him breathe, said: “Spending time with the people you love is what matters. It enriches your life. I live alone and spending seven weeks shielding by myself at the start of the pandemic was horrendous. It came to the stage where I thought, ‘I have a terminal illness. I don’t know how much time I’ve got and I’m not spending it alone.’”

Then in November 2020 Brian decided to pop the question to a speechless Gillian over a candle-lit dine-in-at-home meal.

Gillian said: “I honestly had no idea he was going to propose. I was so shocked it took me a few minutes to say anything – I think he thought for a second I was going to say no!

“Working together for years I have seen Brian in emergency situations, literally life and death, and he has always been as cool as cucumber, but he was visibly sweating and anxious when he asked.”

Brian added: “I was definitely nervous but honestly this is the only decision in my whole life that I knew was 100% right, no hesitations.

“We wanted to get married as soon as possible and originally thought about going to a registry office, but with only two witnesses it meant we couldn’t even have our four kids there. So, we held off until restrictions eased. We’ve finally got here and it’s all worked out amazingly.”

Today (Thursday 10th June), Gillian and Brian finally celebrated their wedding at a hotel in Glasgow, surrounded by 39 of their closest friends and family, many of whom they hadn’t seen since before March 2020. They also live streamed the ceremony to those who couldn’t attend, and many dressed up for the occasion holding their own garden parties at home.

Gillian was walked down the aisle by her two sons Sean (20) and Scott (17), while Brian’s daughter Catherine (14) was a bridesmaid and his son Jack (20) was best man.

Brian said: Today means so much to both of us and it has exceeded all my expectations. I’m so glad we were able to share the day with friends and family, and also raise awareness of MND. We’ll continue doing what we can for the cause, and I’m so proud of my son Jack who’s taking on an Ironman later this year for MND Scotland – so if anyone wants to get us a wedding gift they can donate to his fundraising page!”

Gillian said: “I couldn’t tell you who else was in the room, I was just focused on Brian. I think today shows everyone how much we love each other, and has made people look at their own life and what’s most important to them.”

Brian added: “I’ve tried my best to keep a positive attitude, especially for the kids. Trying to be positive helps you to actually feel positive. I don’t want to waste my life away thinking about MND – I want to make the most of my life and enjoy it while I can, with the people I love.”

Adrian Murphy, Brian’s brother and Chairman of charity MND Scotland, said: “We’ve had an absolutely fantastic, and very emotional, day so far. People living with MND do not have time to wait, so, I’m overjoyed Brian and Gillian were able to have the wedding they wanted, and am so grateful to them for sharing their special day with the world, to help raise more awareness of this awful disease.”

Give a gift to Brian and Gillian by donating to Jack’s Ironman challenge for his dad at

Wedding photo credit: Jamie Agnew Photography

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