Brain donations help battle against dementia

Joseph Bulmer

A NORTHAM woman is calling for more people to think about leaving their brains to help research into dementia.

Ines Taylor’s husband Bernard died in July at the age of 79 after a long period of dementia and she made arrangements for his brain to go to the brain bank at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, which is part of Brains for Dementia Research.

After reading in the North Devon Gazette last month about another local man, 81-year-old Ken Lydon of Bideford, leaving his brain for research, Mrs Taylor decided that she, too, would ‘go public’ in a bid to heighten awareness of this little publicised charity.

“We hear about people donating kidneys, eyes and hearts, but very little is said about brains. Until my husband was within a few days of death it had not occurred to me,” said Mrs Taylor.

“Later I read about Mr Lydon and thought it would be wonderful if a campaign could be mounted to make more people aware.”

Mr Taylor’s husband Bernard, a retired businessman, was diagnosed with dementia in 2006. She cared for him until last November, when she was no longer physically able to do, and he spent his final months in a residential home.

She said: “For many years Bernard carried a donor card. When I was told that there was no chance of his recovery I discussed the possibility of donating his brain with our daughters, who said it was a good idea. This may not help our generation, but the research could help our children.

“I now want to spread the message that there is a need and to make people aware that there is the specialist department in Frenchay Hospital that deals with this. It is not only the brains of people with dementia that are needed, but also those of people without such problems, for comparison. They rarely get these,” said Mrs Taylor.

“I can assure anyone who might consider this that it is a very respectful process.”

Frenchay Hospital holds one of the largest dementia brain banks in Europe and is part of the national Brains for Dementia Research, co-ordinated from Kings College in London. This draws together the independent brain banks so their research can be shared.

Laura Palmer, manager of the Frenchay department, said that this year donations from the South West had risen. From a normal figure of around 12 a year, this year there had been nearly 30.

The department comes under the wing of Bristol University and is supported by a variety of charity groups.

For more information contact the Frenchay Hospital dementia department on 0117 340 3070.