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Su Gorman pays tribute to Steve Dymond from Broadstairs her husband and leading campaigner in blood contamination scandal

By Chris Britcher

On December 23, holding the hand of his wife of more than 40 years, Steve Dymond became the latest victim of the blood contamination scandal.

The former teacher, 62, who lived in Broadstairs, had been, for the final years of his life, an outspoken campaigner on behalf of those affected by the tragedy.

He had spent years suffering health complications, including cancer, as a result of being infected with hepatitis C in his youth through a contaminated blood product.

In his final article, written for the KM in November, he spoke of his desire for the public inquiry - which opened in September and resumes in April - to finally deliver the justice he and the other victims and their families craved.

Su Gorman, Steve's widow, in an article penned for the KM, pays tribute her husband

Steve Dymond and Su Gorman.Picture: Paul Amos
Steve Dymond and Su Gorman.Picture: Paul Amos

In the end Steve Dymond’s life was defined by his haemophilia.

It shouldn’t have been that way. He was so much more and had so much more to give.

And, as a mild haemophiliac, he should have been able to lead an active healthy life.

He was the younger of two brothers of parents who believed, like many, that haemophilia was a family secret.

He was diagnosed aged 12 and just six months before his older brother died, undiagnosed, from a post-operative haemorrhage. Steve never fully shook off that childhood trauma.

Or stopped believing he would one day follow his brother and bleed to death in a hospital bed.

"In the end Steve Dymond’s life was defined by his haemophilia..."

But not before he had created a life full of achievements and wonderful memories which touched so many people.

It is difficult to sum up Steve’s life because there was so much to him

After graduating, he became a popular and much respected teacher at Catford County School in London with a career expanding into the wider aspects of education.

He believed passionately in equality and education. Characteristics he was later to bring to his work with the contaminated blood campaign.

Outside of work he loved spending time with friends. He was passionate about cinema, literature and adored his time in London visiting galleries, museums and theatre. He loved music from Mozart to Led Zeppelin.

He loved sport, becoming a Chelsea supporter when he moved to London. He was a gifted linguist, spoke three languages fluently and enough to get by in others. But a man of contrasts he was never happier than spending hours in the silence and solitude of his amazing gardens.

Steve Dymond and Su Gorman
Steve Dymond and Su Gorman

He was first infected with hepatitis C, we now believe, while a student of Russian at the University of Exeter in the hot summer of 1976. The summer we fell in love.

It would be 21 years before we discovered all the plans and hopes and dreams we shared in those sunny days were already badly compromised.

His next scare was when it was revealed he had been exposed to a contaminated blood product which contained HIV. It led to 18 months of trauma but, mercifully, he escaped.

Shortly after that he accepted an invitation to move to France for professional reasons - an offer we might not have embraced so wholeheartedly had we known he had hepatitis C.

Steve once described living with the condition as akin to going through life with your shoe laces tied together or having the permanent sensation that everything he aimed for was just out of his reach.

It was in France in 1997 we discovered the hep C during a fertility treatment which was immediately terminated.

"It would be 21 years before we discovered all the plans and hopes and dreams we shared in those sunny days were already badly compromised..."

Although he still managed to achieve so much, an MA in business studies, a PhD in cultural and artistic management, both in his adopted French language, his health never permitted him to rebuild a sustainable career.

The vicious anti-viral treatment, which failed to eradicate the hep C in 2003, did so much damage that from the age of 46 he never worked again.

We returned to the UK in 2009.

But connecting with the Tainted Blood campaign ended our solitary, nomadic life and gave us a new focus and at last the real sense of family missing from our lives.

The hearing into the blood scandal will resume in April
The hearing into the blood scandal will resume in April

In 2015, the year the new drug treatments finally cleared the hep C from his body, too late for the ravages to be repaired, he started working to raise the public profile of the campaign.

His work as a campaigner and spokesperson on behalf of the many haemophilia families, so many trapped in the silence he knew from childhood, became his ultimate career.

It wasn’t supposed to be like that. We still had plans to retire once the battle for truth and justice was successfully concluded.

He died in hospital, like his brother, leaving unfinished plans.

His last words were to insist that those responsible for this harm to so many should be made to do penance. I promised him it would happen and that is one promise I intend to keep.

It is not the legacy we imagined in that long ago hot summer. There are no children, no lovingly created shared home, no financial security and no life insurance.

But none of that has anything to do with me not knowing what I’m going to do without him.

I first met Steve Dymond in 2015 and was privileged to be the first journalist he spoke to as he broke his years of silent suffering to join the fight for justice, writes the KM's Chris Britcher.

We became friends and would stay in touch right up to his passing just before Christmas.

On my visits to their Broadstairs home, he would serve me super-strength coffee, a nod to his and Su's life in France, and despite being a quiet, softly spoken man, spoke from his heart when it came to raising awareness of the blood contamination scandal.

It left a trail of devastation which continues to destroy families to this day. Children deprived parents. Wives and husbands ripped apart. Steve and Su denied the family they craved and the careers which would have allowed them the right to retire in financial security.

He was restless and relentless in his quest for the publicity he, quite rightly, saw as essential in applying pressure for a public inquiry and, finally, he wished, some justice.

"Despite being a quiet, softly spoken man, spoke from his heart when it came to raising awareness of the blood contamination scandal..." Chris Britcher

That he did not live to see the outcome of that inquiry is a bitter blow.

In the last article he penned as part of his campaign, published in the KM just a few weeks before his passing, he wrote of the inquiry: "It has been announced the hearings will resume on April 30, 2019.

"I hope to have recovered enough health and strength to participate fully.

"We have to believe that I will still be amongst the survivors."

He, along with all the other victims, deserved to be.

What is the contaminated blood scandal?

Haemophilia has, for centuries, been an affliction which has been difficult to treat. The hereditary condition sees sufferers not have the ability for their blood to naturally clot sufficiently. This means when they bleed it is difficult for them to stop - with the obvious potential dangers.

Back in the 1970s drug companies developed a method of extracting the clotting agents from plasma in blood which could then be turned into a treatment to give haemophiliacs. Most commonly known as Factor VIII, this would provide temporary relief and allow the blood to clot.

Such was the demand, during the 70s and 80s, those companies sought vast quantities of blood to manufacture the treatment. In doing so, they would source it from a variety of places. Notably, and particularly in the US, they paid prisoners and even drug addicts to donate.

Andy Burnham described it as a "criminal cover-up on an industrial scale"
Andy Burnham described it as a "criminal cover-up on an industrial scale"

The result was some of the blood extracted included HIV, which can lead to Aids, and hepatitis C, a disease which affects the liver and can be fatal.

All mixed together and ordered by the Department of Health to treat haemophiliacs, many would go on to find themselves infected, unknowingly, by the illnesses.

It is estimated around 4,600 people, primarily haemophiliacs, were infected with hepatitis C and around 1,200 of which also received HIV in the blood. Some 2,400 of the victims have since died.

Some campaigners say there is evidence to suggest the Department of Health knew of the dangers of Factor VIII long before it banned any non-heat treated blood products when Aids started to spread. The DoH denies this.

Former health minister, and now Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, described it as a "criminal cover-up on an industrial scale" as he played a pivotal role in the public inquiry finally being delivered.

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