photo of Mike Nixon

I’m giving my brain to science. It’s the smart thing to do.

photo of Mike Nixon

Mike Nixon and his wife reside in San Antonio.

Eleven years have passed since I was diagnosed with an exceptional neurodegenerative disease, a variety of leukodystrophy that researchers tell me is rare among the rare. In fact, what I live with should have claimed my life longsteps to donate your brain. before any ultimate diagnosis was made.

Today, I live with a yet-to-be-named form of Vanishing White Matter that has significantly limited my physical abilities, claimed my sight — and immensely expanded my intellect and vision.

When the initial identification of the disease was made and my original neurologist told me, “I don’t know how you have lived this long,” I felt a calling to become a research subject. Then, I realized if I were going to make a genuine difference, I needed to find a postmortem home for my brain and spinal cord.

One morning during what had become a two-year search for a place to donate my brain, a friend called and told me about the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases at UT Health San Antonio. I contacted them and was grateful to find a welcoming home for my central nervous system.

The reasons for my decision are difficult for some to understand. I am more than my disease. Why did I decide to donate my brain? What do I hope to achieve? Simply this: I want to be the brains behind healing for others.

As far as my wife, Darnice, and I are concerned, it is simply the right thing to do. We felt God was telling us, “Make all of what can be used.” Our adult son advised, “Make it work for you.”

So, in addition to donating key tissue of my central nervous system, I have advocated for rare brain disease research, used my background as a news reporter to lobby state legislators, written and called members of Congress and created support networks among families battling conditions often overlooked in the larger field of health care concerns. As I often tell people, “There is more than cancer and heart disease in the world of medical science.” In all fairness, I truly believe my deep faith in God, along with a wry sense of humor, keeps me going.

A new acquaintance has suggested to me that the difference between donating one’s brain and donating a kidney or a portion of one’s liver, is that in those cases the donor is more likely to see or at least hear about any results for the beneficiary.

When you donate your brain or central nervous system to science, you will never know — at least in this life — how much good will come of it. I suppose the brain donor is really offering hopes, dreams and the potential of promise.

What would I recommend to others in my situation? Have the brains to deliver healing.

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