Stevenage woman becomes hero after death by donating brain to science

Philippa King has ensured a invaluable legacy by donating her brain to science. Picture: Amanda King

Philippa King has ensured a invaluable legacy by donating her brain to science. Picture: Amanda King - Credit: Amanda King

A Stevenage woman has made the ultimate act of generosity after passing away.

Philippa King died at the age of 78 last Tuesday, August 22, after a 17-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.

However, as she has left her brain to science, her impact will live on in the research she has enabled for Parkinson’s UK.

Mrs King came to the decision in 2009, after she had been active with a branch of the Parkinson’s Disease Society.

Living in the Dorset town of Bridport at the time, her decision was front page news in the local paper because she wanted to raise awareness about Parkinson’s UK’s research work and the charity’s ‘brain bank’.

Her daughter Amanda told the Comet: “She was nervous about the idea at first. When she suggested it, we thought about it for a few weeks and agreed with her it would be a wonderful thing to do.”

A Stevenage resident between 1969 and 2011, Mrs King moved back to the area to live at Little Wymondley nursing home in order to be closer to her family.

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Mrs King worked at the Stevenage branch of Marks and Spencer in the 1960s and ’70s, where she was promoted to departmental supervisor.

“There was a real social feel there,” said Amanda

“I have photos of my mum organising fancy dress parties, coach trips – even a male stripper!”

Amanda remembers her mum as a extroverted, generous and caring person, and her big personality meant that she was determined to fight the effects of Parkinson’s disease.

“The nurses could never believe it,” said Amanda. “She wouldn’t let it stop her.”

Parkinson’s disease is a long-term disorder of the central nervous system that currently has no cure.

Professor Steve Gentleman, the scientific director of the Parkinson’s UK Brain Bank, told the Comet: “Human tissue is absolutely invaluable for research. That’s the rationale of the charity – to maximise the chances of finding a therapy.”

About the process of organising the donation, Amanda said: “It wasn’t as difficult or as emotional or as time consuming as we all thought it would be.

“I knew how important it was to her. I was carrying out her final wishes knowing she would be looking down on us and being pleased and happy.”

Now Mrs King’s family are keen to raise awareness of the donation campaign.

Amanda said: “A phrase that really stayed with me is that my mum ‘keeps giving and giving’. And that really is a big comfort.”

Mrs King leaves behind three children – Amanda, Paula and David.

Her funeral will be held at 3pm on Monday at St Hilda’s Church in Stevenage and all acquaintances of Philippa are welcome to attend.