I don’t want to be a burden to my family. – Pofam.
I don’t want to bother anybody. That’s what worries me.
Alice Popham, only 40 years old, was diagnosed with early dementia. He is a former Welsh flanker, he is husband and father of three daughters and tries to put his finger on the disease that affects his personality.
I felt a lot of anger in me and I had to let it out, Popham Sport said.
I slammed the doors and kicked them in. I removed the banner at home. After this attack was revealed, I wondered: Why did I do that? I can’t control those actions right now.
Pofam forgot the names of the people or lost sight of the conversation. His wife Mel remembers setting the kitchen on fire. He set up the grill and shut it down. Darcy [his two-year-old daughter] was in her high chair. I could feel the burn, she said. It was pretty scary.
But it was something like cycling, after a loop that Pofam had made hundreds of times, it was a turning point.
I got lost on my bike and fainted, says Popham, I am now 41 years old.
He said he was lost, but he got to the point where he didn’t know where to go, Mel explains. He must have gone all the way back to the proposal. He came home and collapsed.
The doctors found out that I had over 100,000 undervaluations throughout my career.
Pofam went to his doctor and had the tests done. They showed that his short-term memory, as he said, was very weak. In the winter of 2019, Pofam was visited by a neurologist specializing in brain injury. Meanwhile, the situation is getting worse.
When two people talk, there’s no problem, he says. But if there’s a lot of discussion or background noise, I can’t accept the information. Would I leave the sessions and think about how it was?
Mel also talked to a neurologist. She told him things like: I get the words mixed up, I forget the words, I lose my head in conversations where I tell what happened lately.
The 16th. In April, Pofam was diagnosed with early dementia. His diagnosis made him one of eight former rugby players who are now suing the authorities for negligence.
Mel, who was physically ill after seeing her husband’s brain damage, had trouble understanding what was going on.
Every time I looked at Darcy, I cried, Mel said. I kept thinking how this could happen.
We decided not to have another baby, which we had planned for this summer. It was very difficult, but we thought it was wrong to know what we knew.
Seeing the lights go outSeeing the lights go out
Alix Popham (right) had a 14-year professional career.
Pofam describes the effects of concussions and subconsultations on his brain like a slap in the face. If it drips once or twice, there’s no trace on the ground, and if it drips for 14 years, there’s a big hole, he says. It’s the damage you can see in the pictures.
The diagnosis got him thinking about the future. For example, he knows he might not be able to walk his daughters down the aisle.
The neurologist gave us a treatment plan for 5 to 10 years, but no one knows how quickly the symptoms worsen after that. That’s the scary part he tells me.
After all, you talk about the adjustment of the house, the arrival of caretakers, and since you are forty years old, it is frustrating to hear that.
He’s watching the lights go out, Mel explains. My biggest fear is that Alice will end up in a nursing home. As for my daughter, I’m especially afraid she’ll lose her father; he’s there, but it’s not the same Alice.
We had so many big plans for the future. We have other plans now.
Pofam, who is known for his successful techniques, has no doubt that the concussion protocols during the game were inadequate.
You thought you had a concussion when you were cold in the field, he says. If you felt a little drunk, you’d smell like salt. They didn’t want to leave the field as players and show weakness.
You knew your body was going to retire, but no one knew your brain was going to fall apart.
When Pofemu was young, it was said that he would hurt himself if he tried to use pliers with less than 100% results. So he trained three times a week in Britain, then four times a week in France and on Saturday – the race. For 14 years it was his routine. His doctor estimates that he has been quoted more than 100,000 times during his career.
I have no memory of the great parts of my career, he says. During the lockdown they repeated the 2008 game against England, where we won in Twickenham. I don’t remember being in this business.
We played in South Africa and before the match I met Nelson Mandela. I have a picture on the wall, but I don’t remember seeing it.
The Popham family wants to draw attention to head injuries that can be caused by back bypass drums. Mel estimates that hundreds of former teammates and friends of Popham with similar symptoms have contacted them. It has also helped her to create a community of women and partners with which she can communicate.
His life at home has changed. We’ll never yell at Daddy from another room like we used to, Mel. We always make sure that we stand in front of him when we talk, because we have realized that the affected part of the brain is different from Alice sounds.
We try to do something positive every day so that there are no bad days.
They hope that by telling their stories they can increase awareness of the disease and encourage people to move on. Both love rugby and want it to be as safe and informed as possible. But his life has changed.
Sometimes he has the look in his eyes that he doesn’t understand or doesn’t understand something, Mel adds. This has never happened before. It’s very difficult to testify.
Here you will find more information about dementia and contact details of organisations that can help you.