Opinion: How my mother's stroke changed my view on giving

24 May 2017

When you’re under forty years old, philanthropy is probably the last thing you want to think about.

There is the perception that philanthropy is for old, rich people with too much money, who are driven by some sudden altruistic inspiration to give back to the world before they inevitably kick the bucket and hand everything over to the next generation.

But philanthropy is so much more than that – it has the power to change lives by funding projects which otherwise would never have been able to take off.

I recently realised the incredible value of philanthropy in the scientific world, when my mother, a neuroscientist at the Queensland Brain Institute, was a part of the team who received a $5 million philanthropic gift from a family interested in supporting stroke research.

This money has injected vital funds into research, which will hopefully one day improve the lives of stroke survivors. This is especially dear to me seeing as my mother, the stroke researcher in question, suffered a stroke herself at just 31-years-old.

Lacking any of the traditional preconditions such as high blood pressure or smoking, the exact mechanisms behind my mother’s stroke are still unknown. The fear then for me is that because of its unknown origins, I may suffer a stroke in the future.

However, regardless of what caused my mother’s stroke, the fact is it happened – and more importantly, she drove herself to recover.

When she returned to university a year after the stroke to continue studying science, her interests swung (predictably) from plant biology to neuroscience. She wanted to see how stroke worked, and in the process, try to find a way to ease post-stroke symptoms. My mother believed that if she could fix the mice she uses in her research, she could fix herself, and countless others who had suffered and were continuing to suffer, from stroke.  

I have seen my mother recover every single day since her stroke, from when she could hardly recognise my face, to now, where she is seemingly normal besides the odd navigational issue. However, this recovery process was long and difficult, and the possibility of accelerating recovery with the research that can now be conducted with the new funds provided by the Brazil family is incredibly exciting.

Science, as an industry, is founded on philanthropic donations – whether they be small, or in this case, five-million-dollars-big. Even the smallest gifts make an impact. Imagine: if every person at this University gave the average price of a cup of coffee, we would have over $150,000 to go towards research. This can buy innovative new technology or equipment to make new discoveries, and ultimately improve the lives of millions of people all over the world.

Every cent has its own impact. Your three-dollars could be three of 150,000 in the hands of a researcher making a new discovery that changes the entire world.

Money does make the world turn around – and in science, it helps us find out why.

You too can support research into Stroke research at QBI here.

Zoe McDonald is stroke advocate and a journalism and international relations student at UQ.  


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