Youngest survivor of thalidomide still angry at State

Ireland’s youngest thalidomide survivor has told how he is still angry with the State for failing to save him from disability by taking the drug off the market at the same time as other countries.

Kerry farmer John Stack was the last surviving baby in the country born with birth defects from the effects of the so-called miracle morning sickness drug taken by his unsuspecting mother Tess Stack in 1962.

The drug led to more than 10,000 children around the world having birth defects. There are 32 survivors still living in Ireland.

While the drug was withdrawn from sale around the globe in 1961, it remained in pharmacies in Ireland for nearly another full year.

John, a father of three, tells RTÉ’s Ear to the Ground programme that he still feels angry with the State for failing to take action.

“Being the youngest of the 32 in Ireland [I] could have been saved along with four or five more of us

“The State didn’t take it off the market. The culture at the time was very hush hush. There wasn’t much communication.

“My mother took thalidomide in May, June of ’62. It was available in the local chemist shop.

“She never spoke about it very much at all. We never actually discussed it.”

The German company which invented the drug apologised to sufferers for the first time in August but Mr Stack said it never said sorry to the mothers of the thousands of babies who were left suffering from painful guilt over the injuries to their babies.

“Somebody should have stood up somewhere and said to the mothers they were sorry. We had to live with it but they had the guilt.”

Mr Stack, 50, inherited his aunt and uncle’s livestock farm in Tarmons, Co Kerry, and said he has never allowed his disability to hold him back.

“I’ve adapted. We run a limousine suckler herd. I have never done things the conventional way.

“I do as much as I can do physically myself. I have great neighbours and have had a fantastic contracting service whether it is bailing or slurry over the years.”

John, who runs the farm with his wife Trish, said his grown-up children were now helping him out with tasks on the farm.

“The most difficult is calving a cow. I can’t get my hand in to calve a cow.

“Obviously lifting bags of stuff and dosing are [difficult] but at this stage my son is old enough and does most of the dosing.”

* Ear to the Ground will be shown on RTÉ One today at 8.30pm.

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