Blackpool mum wants truth over '˜forgotten Thalidomide'
Labelled as the 'forgotten Thalidomide', a drug once used in pregnancy testing is believed by many victims to have caused birth defects, stillbirths and miscarriages.
The Gazette talks to a Blackpool mum who believes the pregnancy testing drug Primodos was responsible for her son’s birth defects.
When Dorothy Kilbride went to the doctors because she thought she was pregnant, she didn’t question it when the GP handed her two tablets and told her to take them to confirm the pregnancy.
Dorothy, now 66, who lives on Preston New Road, Marton, , explains: “I was 19 at the time and the doctor just gave me these tablets out of his drawer.
“He suggested I take one at night and then one in the morning. I’d never heard of Primodos but you think whatever the doctor is giving you is right.”
Dorothy went on to give birth to her son Alan in 1971. He was born five weeks premature.
Dorothy recalls: “Ten days after Alan was born, I noticed his eyes had to glide into position and that really worried me.”
Dorothy was right to be concerned as Alan was soon diagnosed with hydrocephalus, the potentially fatal build up of fluid on the brain.
The diagnosis meant Alan faced numerous operations from a young age.
He had to be fitted with a shunt behind his ear to manage his condition which was frequently replaced until he was a toddler.
He has also had to undergo a number of eye operations for his poor sight, something Dorothy fears will one day descend into complete blindness.
Dorothy, who works as a hotel breakfast assistant at The Village Hotel, says: “Alan has really suffered. He can’t get a proper job. “I have another son Tony, who is now 45 who is doing really well and Alan is stuck doing a cleaning job.”
Dorothy’s second son was born 18 months after Alan as a healthy baby.
This time, Dorothy had not been given Primodos.
Dorothy says: “Alan was never able to concentrate at school because of the hydrocephalus. He was bullied by the other children and called ‘Frankenstein,’ because of the size of his head.
“He was never able to do any sports because he was too top heavy and had no balance.
“Alan could never perform well in exams, but for me it was just important that he was happy.”
Dorothy recalls she was constantly anxious during Alan’s upbringing, particularly during periods when he was ‘sick,’ – the times when the build up of fluid on Alan’s brain was particularly dangerous. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Dorothy became aware of the campaign against Primodos and its links with birth defects similar to Alan’s.
She explains: “I heard the word Primodos on TV and my ears pricked up, but of course back then there were no iPads, so you couldn’t look anything up.”
In the years that followed Dorothy remained in the dark and was left wondering whether her son’s disability had in fact been caused by the drug she was given in early pregnancy.
She was finally able to receive some answers when she saw Marie Lyon from Wigan fronting the newly revived campaign on television three years ago.
She says: “When I saw Marie on the television, I watched it again at six ‘o’ clock and thought ‘what do I do now?’”
Marie swiftly contacted Yasmin Qureshi MP and joined the Association of Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests (ACDHPT) in a quest to uncover the truth.
Dorothy soon realised she was not alone and that hundreds of others believed Primodos to be the cause of their own children’s disabilities.
She says: “You just realise how many have suffered and you almost think you’re lucky. Some of these children are in wheelchairs.”
Now divorced and living on her own, Dorothy forced herself to attend the Association’s AGM in Birmingham that year and was shocked by how much she discovered.
Dorothy says: “To me, it is a cover up. Were doctors made to give these tablets out? Who knows?
“When I heard the dangers of Primodos were known by people and yet it was still prescribed, I was really angry. It’s terrible. It is the forgotten Thalidomide.”
The fight for an inquiry has been a hard one and Dorothy says she and the hundreds of other victims are ready for the truth.
She says: “We’re all getting older now and this inquiry is really our last chance to get some answers. We’re pinning all our hopes on this.
“What happens when we’re gone? Who is going to look after these children?”
Alan, now 46, has recently moved out into his own home and met a girlfriend and Dorothy is happy her son now has a chance at happiness.
However, she still feels his life would have been more enjoyable had it not been for his hydrocephalus. She explains: “I am really happy that Alan has met Jodie, but I can’t help but want more for him in life.”
For the thousands of victims with more severe disabilities than Alan, Dorothy hopes the inquiry will eventually deliver some help and raise awareness for many more who might not even know that Primodos may have affected their lives.
She says: “When Alan was diagnosed, I was kept in the dark and didn’t know what would happen to now. I’ve lived with constant worry. Now I just want the truth. I want some answers.”