Big hearted octogenarian Margaret Edy from Doncaster knows what it means to do good deeds for others.
Margaret, 88, has worked in nursery schools for more than 35 years, done volunteer work at a Sue Ryder care home supporting people injured in the Second World War, many of whom had returned from concentration camps – even inviting them to her home – and latterly caring for her husband Peter as he battled dementia.
Helping others to live has been a significant part of Margaret’s life and, as she said: “I’ve always helped people and now I have the chance to help people again.”
Her latest grand gesture is a promise to donate her brain to dementia research when she dies, as she explained: “I’ve always given other people my love. I’m doing this out of love too and because I want to help others.”
Margaret is one of thousands across the country who have pledged to donate their brains to the Brains for Dementia Research project, which is designed to collect brain tissue from dead donors to aid research into dementia.
The study was set up in 2007 and uses dedicated ‘brain banks’ for storage. Human brain tissue is not covered by standard organ donation schemes, so the study allows it to be collected and distributed to researchers in the most efficient way.
While that study is comparatively new, Margaret’s understanding of the need for medical research goes back to her experiences in childhood.
She said: “When I was five, I got three illnesses in the space of a year. They were diphtheria, scarlet fever and pneumonia.
“Children were dying, but I made it. Now, children don’t usually die of these illnesses, because we have vaccinations and ways of treating things. That’s thanks to research.”
Margaret met her husband Peter, who had worked in India, while volunteering at a Sue Ryder home. The pair married after a whirlwind courtship lasting six weeks.
“He was a wonderful man,” Margaret said. “He loved to laugh and was great with children.” The pair had a happy married life but, in the late 1990s, Margaret began to notice her husband behaving strangely. He was referred to a specialist in 1999 and after a scan, vascular dementia was diagnosed. Margaret said: “You can have all the money in the world, but if you don’t have your health, what good is that?” Contact Groundedresearch@nhs.uk to help promote RDaSH research.