Santa Cruz mayor-elect Fred Keeley recovering after emergency hospitalization

Santa Cruz mayor-elect Fred Keeley
Santa Cruz mayor-elect Fred Keeley.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Fred Keeley, 72, was diagnosed with transient global amnesia after he was rushed to Dominican Hospital on Thursday. Hospital documents provided to Lookout say the condition lasts only 24 hours and does not affect other brain functions. Keeley is set to be sworn in Tuesday as Santa Cruz’s first directly elected four-year mayor.

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The last thing Fred Keeley, Santa Cruz’s mayor-elect due to be sworn in next week, says he remembers about Thursday afternoon is walking planning commissioner Andy Schiffrin to his bicycle after a meeting at his Market Street home. Three hours later, Keeley woke up in a bed at Dominican Hospital, repeatedly asking where he was and how he got there.

Keeley doesn’t remember what happened in that three-hour window, and the doctors at Dominican Hospital told him he likely never will. Barbara Keeley, Keeley’s wife, says she received an agitated call from her husband around 3 p.m. that day, telling her to come home. She found Keeley half-slumped over the bed. At about 3:30 p.m., an ambulance arrived and rushed the 72-year-old mayor-elect to the hospital, where he underwent a CT scan, MRI and other tests.

Keeley was diagnosed with transient global amnesia, according to official hospital records he shared with Lookout. Those records state transient global amnesia is a “sudden and temporary loss of memory” and it “does not last longer than 24 hours.” Dominican Hospital did not return Lookout’s requests to verify the documents.

“I was pretty shaken up until the doctors came in and told me I was going to be OK,” Keeley said. He told Lookout he was discharged from Dominican Hospital around 11:30 p.m., and has been resting in bed since.

According to Keeley’s records, the cause of transient global amnesia is not known. However, certain activities are known to trigger it; among those listed is emotional distress, “such as receiving bad news or having a lot of stress at once.”

Keeley said he is approaching the 20th anniversary of a “severely traumatic event” he experienced. He declined to give further details, but said it has weighed heavily on his mind lately, even triggering recent nightmares.

According to medical documents, doctors ruled out other chronic, triggering diseases, such as a stroke or seizures. The hospital documents also emphasized that transient global amnesia does not affect other brain functions or make him more susceptible to future medical issues.

“One episode of transient global amnesia does not make you more likely to have a stroke, a relapse or other complications,” the documents say.

Keeley said he was given a clean bill of health ahead of his mayoral campaign. He says he did suffer a “very minor stroke” around 2009 during a party at his home. According to a 2003 article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Keeley had a two-week hospital stay in November 2002 “that left him several sizes thinner.” As he did in 2003, Keeley declined to offer any further details on that hospital stay or the complications that caused it.

Keeley’s consulting physician, Dr. Milan Patel, did not immediately return Lookout’s calls.

Keeley said he was expecting to take up his courtside seat next to the scoring table at the Santa Cruz Warriors game Friday night.

“There is nothing courageous about me going out tonight,” Keeley said. He will be sworn in as Santa Cruz’s first directly elected four-year term mayor Tuesday.


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