A grieving family have paid tribute to a “strong and courageous” father-of-two after he bravely battled severe epilepsy before it sadly took his life.
Adam Cadwallader from Quakers Yard died with his family around him at around 7pm November 27 after enduring several epileptic seizures in the hours before. He was just 29-years-old.
His family now want to raise awareness about Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) – a fatal and sudden complication of – which was given as Adam’s cause of death. He had been living with epilepsy since his late teens after it was triggered by encephalitis – inflammation of the brain – at the age of 13.
On the day of his death, Adam, a doting dad of his two children James, four, and Carys, five, had several major fits at his home in Treharris which he also shared with his beloved wife, 28-year-old Jemma.
Adam’s mum, 47-year-old Donna Griffiths explained: “Adam had permanent brain damage on the left side of his brain, then four years later it triggered epilepsy.
“On the day he died, he spent the whole day with his family. Jemma said he had been fitting, so my husband and father went up and put him back into bed. They left, and he had another seizure. Jemma asked if he was okay and he said he was tired – then he went instantly. Paramedics worked on him for an hour and a half, but there was nothing he could do.
“We want to raise awareness of Sudep because not many people seem to know much about it. It’s sudden and its instant so we want to make people aware so it doesn’t come as such a shock to others.”
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, each year, more than 1 in 1,000 people with epilepsy die from SUDEP. However the cause is not clear. Over one-third of the time, there is a witnessed seizure or signs of a recent seizure close to the time of death, just like Adam.
Donna said Adam was classed as a severe epileptic and could have between 30 and 40 seizures a day. These included grand mal seizures often associated with epilepsy, which cause unconsciousness and jerking . However, during other types of seizures, Adam might find himself unable to get his words out or black out completely.
However, it didn’t stop Adam from living his life to the fullest he could. He called himself an “epilepsy warrior” and became an advocate for raising awareness about the condition. He also enjoyed outdoor activities such as fishing and mountain climbing as well as looking after his children who were “his life”.
Donna said: “[because of what he’d been through] we didn’t think Adam would be able to have a family, but when he met Jemma,he had it all. It was if Adam crammed his own life into 29 years because he knew he wouldn’t be here after that.
“He was kind, caring, strong and courageous. We called him the Big Friendly Giant because he was six-foot-eight and he really was a gentle giant. He was intelligent and a fantastic artist – he was absolutely fabulous. Even after he lost his memory due to the encephalitis, he never lost his ability to do art. He would design tattoos for the family and had a tattoo on his arm of a coy carp with the words ‘strength and courage’ – that is on his headstone now. We’re all suffering as a family, nobody expects to have to bury their child.”
Because of Adam’s love of raising awareness and supporting epilepsy charities, Jemma’s brother and close friend of Adam’s, Christopher Thomas, taking part in a charity fundraiser doing 350.000 steps hoping to raise £2,000. You can donate here.
Jemma, said the day her husband died felt like world fell from under her feet. She said he was her whole world and that her children talk about him every day.
She said: “We got married in August 2018 and he was just my everything, my whole world He was really funny and made me laugh all the time. Whenever I was down, he wouldn’t have to ask he would just know. He absolutely doted on his kids, their bond was so strong, you couldn’t even explain it. He’d take them to bed and read them stories, he’d take them on walks and he’d always be the one chasing them around, holding their hand and taking them to school.
The children talk about him all the time because they have so many memories of Adam from spending so much time with him. Now that he is no longer here, the kids miss him like crazy.”