Swansea bus driver, Keith Thomas, has won the hearts of Swansea bus-passengers with his inspirational story and zest for life.
After receiving a full ileostomy in 2012, Keith was left with a life-altering, colostomy bag. In this moment, he chose to fully embrace his life. He changed careers and started to do what would make him, and others, happy.
He has since raised over £13,000 for charity, has been crowned Welsh Bus Driver of The Year, and was runner up in the UK Bus Driver of the Year award.
Keith has shared his full story with Swansea BID’s True Heart Swansea, which uncovers the powerful stories that make Swansea so unique:
“I passed my driving test as a bus driver in 1999. But I haven’t always worked as a bus driver. I took up a job in a factory which enabled me to go to night school to gain my plumbing qualifications. The recession kicked in as I passed, so that career didn’t really take off. I was lucky enough to bump into my boss from the factory who offered me a job in a different role, which I took.
“In 2008 I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, and after 4 years of being on 20 tablets a day, I was rushed into hospital with a suspected perforated bowel and was told I needed an ileostomy. After a ten-hour operation, I recall waking up and asking to watch England play football – it completely changed my life, I had never felt better.
“After only 6 weeks I returned to work, but I quickly discovered that I didn’t want to be in the factory anymore, I am such a people person and that’s where I wanted to be, with the public.
“I applied to be a bus driver for First Cymru in 2013. I had retained my licence, so it was easier for me, but I got the job straight away and have been here 8 years, and I love it. First Cymru are my biggest supporters.
“I have since won 2 awards, Welsh Bus Driver of the Year and UK Bus Driver of the Year runner up. I am so grateful to have been recognised in such awards.
“The route I drive is the no.4 service between Singleton and Morriston Hospital. The route I drive means a bit more personally because you never know why some of these people are going to the hospital, on that level I can relate. I never judge anyone at work.
“I do a lot for charity alongside my job. Over the last 6 years I have raised over £13,000 for charity by doing various challenges, even celebrities have gotten involved! I even won Fundraiser of the Year for Marie Curie, what a day that was!
“My most memorable passenger was a lady I picked up in Gorseinon. She said she had seen me in the paper the day before. She went on to tell me she also had a colostomy bag, and I felt so humbled that I had inspired this lady to talk openly about her experience.
“My motto is that ‘I am Keith the happy bus driver, who doesn’t judge and who changes lives by simply being positive’. Illness can put you in a dark place, but I promise there is light at the end of the tunnel. You are not alone!”
Commenting on Keith’s story, is Andrew Douglas, Business Liaison Manager for Swansea BID: “Swansea is bursting with brilliant individuals who make the city the unique and great place it is. At Swansea BID, we make it our mission to find the brilliant stories of those working within Swansea city centre, and to share them via our Big Heart of Swansea and True Heart of Swansea social media accounts. We want our ‘people’ as well as our businesses to attract visitors to the city.
“Keith’s story is a true inspiration, and it is clear to see how much of a positive impact he has had on people’s lives, just by being him.”
If you are interested in joining Keith as a First Cymru Bus Driver, there are currently several vacancies open. Visit the First Cymru careers page for more information.