Published: 00:01, 10 October 2018
| Updated: 10:52, 11 October 2018
In the 1970s and 80s contaminated blood was given to unsuspecting patients in a scandal which left at least 2,400 people dead. Victim Steve Dymond told Jodie Nesling of his experience at the start of a long-awaited public inquiry
Aged just 12, Steve Dymond was diagnosed with mild haemophilia after a routine tooth extraction.
He says his mother didn’t tell him he had the condition - which impairs the body’s ability to form blood clots - because of the stigma attached to it at the time.
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But he was told he would need to take a clotting agent to prevent blood loss if he underwent surgery or suffered a traumatic injury.
He is unable to pinpoint the exact time he was given the treatment, but it would later have a devastating effect on the 62-year-old’s life.
I meet the talented linguist at his home in Cumberland Avenue, Broadstairs.
He is articulate and well-dressed and pulls open the door with a smile which slowly fades as he reveals the shocking news that, along with thousands of others, he was infected with Hepatitis C in the 1980s.
VIDEO: The blood contamination scandal elsewhere in Kent
“It’s like the famous scene in the Deer Hunter where there’s the guy with the gun playing Russian roulette with the pistol,” he says, describing the treatment that irrevocably changed his life.
“I’m warning you this is a sad story and everybody we have told it to has cried.”
Su adds: “It’s affected everything, including our ability to have children.”
Steve was diagnosed with Hepatitis C around 1997 while the couple were living in France; during that time, unexplained symptoms of severe mood swings, debilitating fatigue, and muscle pain had put an unimaginable strain on their marriage.
"I was then told my husband would get liver damage, cancer and early death" - Su Gorman
“It was like living in a different universe; nobody could tell us what was wrong,” Su says.
"My husband wrote a PhD in French on cultural studies and here he was barely remembering what he had just seen on TV.”
“By the time he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C we were just glad to have an answer, but even so back then nobody really knew what it was.
"I was then told my husband would get liver damage, cancer and early death.”
After an agonising wait, a breakthrough in treatment saw Steve trial new medication.
Miraculously, it left him free of the disease within three months, but by that time his liver was irreparably damaged and he had developed liver cancer.
Around this immensely stressful time, similar stories were emerging as campaigners from groups like Tainted Blood were revealing the sheer scale of victims of the horrifying scandal.
The NHS had bought blood products from the USA in the 1970s which had been taken from prisoners and not screened.
Thousands of people were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C, with at least 2,400 dying.
There are huge questions about how and why the blood treatment, known as Factor VIII, was given to patients when the government knew there were risks of infection.
It has been branded the biggest scandal in NHS history.
“We became actively involved with Tainted Blood around three years ago,” says Su.
Steve adds: “We never wanted to go public before as I didn’t want that victim status but I think it has helped.”
The couple have forged relationships with other sufferers and, while that provides a strong support network, there is the emotional upheaval of losing much-loved members as the fight continues.
“One girl lost both her parents within a week,” says Steve, his voice faltering as he fights back tears.
"The stories of broken dreams, heartbreaking loss, and unrealised ambition characterise their community but it has also galvanised a steely determination in search of the truth.
“Never pick a fight with a person who has nothing to lose,” Steve says.
Momentarily, his humour returns, as he adds: “I have taught 16-year-old girls in Catford - this is nothing.”
Since Theresa May announced a public inquiry into the scandal in July, the couple has remained cautiously optimistic in their bid for justice.
Steve says: "What we really all want to know more than anything is just, 'why'?"
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