It can be truly uplifting when you spend time with people who have to overcome real challenges every day. I spent an afternoon with people damaged by the drug Thalidomide, they call themselves Thalidomiders. It’s not just that your own problems get put in perspective, but something more profound in the spirit and character that these people, have had to find in themselves. My afternoon with the Thalidomide Society was inspirational. Not a word I have cause to use very often.
The Society held it’s AGM in the morning with talks scheduled for the afternoon. I was engaged to photograph the afternoon talks and in particular Heidi Thomas, the Series Producer and writer of BBC TV’s ‘Call the Midwife’ with Stephen McGann, who plays Dr Patrick Turner. The series reached 1961 and tackled the still scandalous issue of Thalidomide damage to unborn babies. The programme has been commended for it’s sensitive handling and powerful storyline. It seemed to me that Heidi and Stephen we’re glad to have the opportunity of explaining how and why they’d done it, and their audience – people who had and were still struggling – seemed enthralled. Most moving was seeing their reaction to baby Susan, the specially-made animatronic baby with vestigial arms. Several people wept as they held her, one lady telling me that for the first time she could imagine how her mother must have felt when she was born, and her mother first held her.
It’s not known for sure how many babies were affected by thalidomide. Many miscarried, were still born or died soon after birth. Recently it’s been estimated that over 24,000 babies were born worldwide, 2000 in the UK. Experts estimate that those babies still-born and miscarried because of thalidomide would add a further 123,000 worldwide. Most horrific is the suggestion that these figures would be still greater if they included those babies born alive who became victims of state infanticide. These were never registered.
Trevor Aston Photography is based in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames in southwest London with easy access to and from central London and Surrey.