Written by Jessica Bomford, March 7, 2023
Matthew is aiming to complete an astonishing eight endurance events this year to raise thousands of pounds for the Haemophilia Society as a tribute to his grandma and uncle.
Matthew’s grandma, Mary Smith, who died in 2022, was unaware she was a haemophilia carrier until the birth of her first son, David. Since then, haemophilia has been part of their story, and although Matthew does not have haemophilia he is full of admiration for how Mary, then only in her early 20s, dealt with this dramatic twist in family life.
He said: ‘I wanted to do this fundraising challenge in my grandma’s memory in recognition of all that she had to cope with, and to raise awareness about haemophilia. I think it is a fitting tribute, not only to my grandma but to my uncle David as well.’
David was born in 1952 when there was very little treatment available for people with haemophilia. Matthew’s mum, Marie, remembers catching three buses with her mother from their home in Burnley to Manchester so they could visit her brother David in hospital. There was no children’s ward and families were not allowed to stay overnight at the hospital.
‘I wanted to do this fundraising challenge in my grandma’s memory in recognition of all that she had to cope with, and to raise awareness about haemophilia.’
Marie said: ‘As a sibling of a haemophiliac it was hard to witness the pain my brother endured and I missed his company on the many occasions he was in hospital. I am so pleased that treatment has progressed over the years and that hopefully life for anyone with a bleeding disorder and their families is much better now.’
Although highly intelligent, David did not attend a mainstream school, as was often the case for people with haemophilia at that time. Instead, he went to an ‘Open Air School’ which were used for children who were considered physically delicate, with pupils encouraged to prepare for jobs such as piano tuners or watch repairers, due to their condition.
David, however, had other ideas and taught himself using encyclopaedias and the BBC’s Schools Programme, working his way up through accounts departments to forge a successful career, eventually becoming a Company Secretary.
Later, he was infected with hepatitis C through treatment with contaminated blood products, possibly from knee replacement surgery, and sadly died in 2005 from liver cancer at the age of 52. Marie said: ‘This was devastating to his wife, his family and friends as I’m sure many other haemophiliacs and their families will relate to.’
Matthew said: ‘I feel robbed of my relationship with my uncle. I was 16 when he died, so we never even got to have a beer together. Haemophilia is still a condition that people don’t know much about, and I hope my fundraising challenge will go some way to helping people understand more about it.’
A keen swimmer, Matthew, now 35, also took up running just before lockdown in 2020. This year he plans to complete three running half marathons, three swimming half marathons and one marathon swim, totalling about 85 miles. He will also take part in the one-mile Serpentine Swim in September.
He said: ‘I’ve never done anything like this before, but after my grandma died, my mum suggested this might be a really good way to remember both her and my uncle. I wanted to do something to commemorate her and how much she meant to me as a grandparent but also for all the love and support she had given me throughout my life. I hope people will take inspiration from her.’
To sponsor Matthew and support the Haemophilia Society please follow this link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/matthew-sutton87