Molly's Gift

Gifts come in all shapes and sizes. Some are beautiful. Some are practical. Some are expensive and some are priceless.

Molly’s gift was the latter. It was a gift that has left a legacy that will continue for many, many years to come. At the end of 2022, Molly aged 98 generously donated her brain to the South West Dementia Brain Bank. Planned by Molly several years before, in 2022 the moment came where, on her passing, her brain was given to the BRACE funded South West Dementia Brain Bank. Her priceless gift will now be used by researchers all around the world.

Having been a longtime supporter of BRACE and an advocate for medical research, Molly really wanted to make a difference. She was an active volunteer in dementia research in her lifetime, taking part in many different projects, aiding investigation into topics such as the role of sleep in brain health.

Dementia touched Molly’s life through her late brother’s wife first. Later as her husband reached his 80s, he developed symptoms which Molly would refer to as dementia, although no formal diagnosis was ever given. One of the things staff at the brain bank can do with a donated brain is provide a formal dementia diagnosis to families. There are several different types of dementia and some 40% of diagnoses given in a person with dementia’s lifetime turn out to be incorrect.

It is thought that perhaps Molly’s deep interest in medical science was inspired by her brother, who’s groundbreaking work in public education about cancer in the 60’s and 70 helped change public opinion of the condition. Her daughter and current BRACE Trustee, Mary Whittington, also spent almost 15 years of her career as an architect developing new hospitals.

Dementia research has so much to thank Molly for. She shared her fondness of BRACE with Mary and also introduced her to the Brain Bank . Both of which have led to Mary generously giving her time to the charity. But perhaps the most incredible part of Molly’s legacy is that her daughter Mary has now also signed up to donate her brain to the bank. Mary saw the impact of dementia first-hand and the effect it can have not only on the person with dementia, but also the wider family, when her mother-in-law started to show signs of the disease. She was later given a diagnosis, and the experience opened Mary’s eyes further to how desperately a dementia cure is needed.

Now a BRACE trustee, Mary hopes that one day, research will understand the causes of dementia well enough to develop a cure and to stop dementia for good. Her mother Molly’s brain - and indeed Mary’s - will be indispensable in this mission. Combined with funding raised by BRACE, the South West Dementia Brain Bank could enable researchers to defeat dementia.

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