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Big-hearted Fife woman dedicates life to saving others – by giving away her body bit by bit

Tracey Jolliffe (Photo by Tina Norris)
Tracey Jolliffe (Photo by Tina Norris)

A WOMAN is giving her body away bit by bit – to save as many lives as she can.

Tracey Jolliffe has sacrificed a kidney to save a stranger, donated eggs to three couples to help them have babies, contributed 80 pints to the national blood bank and enrolled on a stem cell donor register to give hope to a cancer victim.

She is now considering donating a part of her liver to save a dying patient.

And after she dies her brain will be donated to medical science.

Selfless Tracey loves the joy she gets from helping others.

“The feeling of saving a life is fantastic,” the 50-year-old told The Sunday Post.

“I firmly believe we should all do what we can to make life as happy as possible for others.”

Even in her day job as a scientist she’s a lifesaver, diagnosing dangerous viruses and bacteria to allow doctors to save ill patients.

Tracey, from Cupar, Fife, embarked on her selfless path when she enrolled as a blood donor at 18.

The microbiologist, who works at Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, said: “I guess you could say it all started then. When I was giving blood I saw a notice asking me to consider going on the stem cell register. The cells help treat patients dying from leukaemia.”

At 25 she was called by doctors who had discovered she was a match for a dying patient.

“But a closer one was found and I was asked to stand down,” she added. I am still on the register and could be called any time.”

transplant

In her late twenties, she decided to help childless couples by donating 16 eggs for fertilisation.

“The fertility team were delighted at the number I produced,” she revealed.

“Back then the law allowed donors to remain anonymous to the children they helped create.

“But new legislation means they can contact me in future and I honestly would be happy to meet them. I have no qualms about that.

“Giving childless couples the chance to become parents has given me immense joy. If you can help others safely without damaging your own body, then you should.”

Tracey, who is single with no children of her own, says she has no hang-ups about not being a mum. “Life has not worked out that way for me but I am perfectly fulfilled in other ways,” she said.

Not content with spreading happiness by donating eggs, Tracey continued her mission to help others by donating one of her kidneys in 2012.

“I read a newspaper story about saving a stranger’s life through altruistic donation,” she continued.

“So I approached my doctor and went through the process of a thorough medical before I was pronounced fit to save a kidney patient.

“But I have never heard who it was. It could have been in the same ward at the Edinburgh hospital where it was removed. Or someone at the other end of the country.

“I do know that five days after the transplant the patient was thriving. I was allowed that level of feedback from my doctors at least.

“I only wish others would consider this. I am still fit and healthy and so is the person I saved, as far as I know.”

Tracey’s next plan is to see if she can become a liver donor.

“It can be a much trickier and complicated procedure than having a kidney removed,” she said. “But it’s very possible.

“I am not putting my life at risk.”

Tracey’s dad has a form of Parkinson’s disease, which prompted her to volunteer to donate her brain for research after she dies.

“I don’t have Parkinson’s, but researchers need non-affected brains, too,” she explained. “It helps them look for differences between those with and without the disease.”

As if using parts of herself to save others wasn’t enough, big-hearted Tracey even went the whole hog by offering to give her body to medical schools after she died.

However, she was turned down.

“I wanted to donate my entire body”, said Tracey. “But donating a kidney means I am not ‘complete’ and universities prefer whole bodies to teach medical students.”

Tracey’s family are right behind her in her mission to donate parts of her body piece by piece.

“My dad and brothers are quite relaxed about it,” she said.

“I lost my mum Catherine in a terrible car accident when I was 19.

“And I honestly think mum wouldn’t have minded.

“It was sudden and shocking but you have to go on. My dad Daniel, now 83, survived with serious back injuries. If anything, it taught me to value life.

“My parents were both army nurses when they were younger and motivated to save others.

“My three brothers just accept that I am happy to save others.”

Humanist Tracey doesn’t believe in an afterlife.

“I am not at all religious,” she insists. My motivation doesn’t come from a belief that I am earning a place in heaven by doing good works.

“It’s just a desire to help others while I am alive … I hate to see people in trouble and not help them.”

Tracey is a founding member of giveakidney.org, which promotes altruistic donation.