MASON CITY — The River City Dames of Anarchy continue to support a referee who can no longer participate in roller derby due to a rare type of dementia.
A fundraiser and matching funds from the team’s Derby Love event mid-February raised $300 for the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration. Tommy Nash, 45, has the disease, which is also known as frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
The Alzheimer’s Association says FTD causes deterioration in behavior, personality, language and motor functions. Memory is typically unaffected except in advanced stages.
Tommy wasofficially diagnosed in 2015 but his symptoms started years before.
“He started having personality changes in 2008 and then it got progressively worse,” said his wife, Deb Nash, who also serves as a team referee.
The disease typically affects 45- to 64-year-olds. The average diagnosis age is 57, which is 13 years earlier than the average Alzheimer’s diagnosis. It affects 50,000 to 60,000 Americans, but there are no treatments currently available to slow its progress.
After seeking answers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Deb says the couple joined the Dames of Anarchy to have activities to keep Tommy going.
The symptoms came quickly. Tommy, who lives in the dementia unit of a Manly nursing home, can no longer take part in the sport.
“He has maybe three days out of the month when he has good days and talks to us,” Deb said. “Otherwise, he’s just very quiet.”
Whenever he is able to, Deb says Tommy talks to the Dames on their private Facebook page.
“He’ll say stuff like, “Go get ‘em” or ‘I’m always thinking about you guys,’” she said. “It was a big part of his life.”
Tommy is aware the team did the fundraiser, which will support research, Deb said. A poster hangs in his room and members of the team signed a photobook.
Board member Deb Duregger said the cause was near and dear to their hearts.
“Tommy and Deb have been a big part of the team for the last few years,” she said. “When we heard of Tommy’s diagnosis, we were all devastated.
“We wanted to help out. Giving back is just something we’re passionate about.”