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Sons and Daughters' Brian Blain is fighting cardiac troubles both on and off the set

Sons and Daughters' Brian Blain has been rocked by health problems both on and off the screen.

As Gordon Hamilton in the popular Seven Network series, Brian has had two heart attacks.

In real life he has landed in hospital with cardiac trouble.

While playing Pottinger in the ABC-TV mini-series Ben Hall, Brian learned he had a faulty heart valve.

At the time he was terrified of horses, but he managed to do all but one of his own riding stunts.

That one was done by folk singer Roger Thwaites, a former station manager, who always rode behind Brian, ostensibly as a trooper, but whose real job was to take over from Brian if he ran into difficulty.

Roger doubled for Brian when his horse had to rear up and he had to fall off its back. Brian took over from the fall and rolled around in filthy creek water. Through doing that he contracted a gum infection.

With 18 days of intense filming, he was not able to get to a dentist immediately and the germ spread through his bloodstream.

He began deteriorating rapidly and by the end of filming, he was unable to walk. Ulcers had formed on his ankles and he was weak from losing 13kg.

He was admitted to Sydney's Prince of Wales Hospital, sub-acute endocarditis was diagnosed, and he spent two months in hospital.

"In the past doctors had told me I had a slight heart murmur, but it was only after Ben Hall I discovered I had a faulty heart valve."

Although he should be going for regular checkups, Brian said: "I'm a terrible procrastinator. I always put things off until tomorrow. I haven't had a checkup for two years and I should have had one at least 18 months ago."

Ill health aside, Brian has fond memories of Ben Hall.

"That show meant a lot to me… six months' work, mastering my fear of horses and learning film craft.

"I'll be ever grateful to the directors, Heath Harris (horsemaster), Vincent Ball and the whole crew because I knew virtually nothing about film work at the time and, cripes, the crew took the blame for my mistakes.

"The cameraman would say things like 'sorry, we'll have to go again on that one Brian… my fingers slipped on the focus' and the soundman would say 'sorry, I got a bird call right in the middle of a key word'.

"I was really mothered through that series and for that I'm eternally grateful."

He's also grateful that he can still enjoy a cigarette and a beer.

"I believe life is about doing what I enjoy," he says. "I like a beer or two."

As Gordon Hamilton, during one of the TV-role heart attacks, he was put in an ambulance with a mask on his face.

"To stop me hyperventilating the ambulance man turned on the oxygen and when I finished work, two hours of oxygen later, I went home and had some beers.

"I can drink beer without any ill effect like most middle-aged people who have drunk beer all their lives, but because of the oxygen, I was as silly as a chook on three beers."

Exercise is important to Brian's heart condition.

"I do a lot of skin diving and swimming too as I'm told they're all great exercises for my condition.

"In water I'm not to go too deep and have to be careful of rips because I'm not a strong swimmer and any scare would set my heart thumping.

"Panic is one thing doctors have warned me to avoid. I got a bit of a fright one night at home when my heart thundered for about half an hour.

"I thought 'tonight's the night' but I dropped off to sleep and woke up next morning."


By: Marie Ussher
Source: TV Week
Date: 15 December 1984


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