Young rugby star dies days after falling ill

Steven Sims

Steven Sims

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A TALENTED young rugby player and musician has died from a rare blood illness just days after being diagnosed.

Steven Sims, 23, who captained St Andrews University 1st XV, was a popular member of his pipe band and had just secured a prestigious job, was admitted to hospital last Tuesday with a rash on his body and died four days later from a blood disorder which led to bleeding on the brain.

The former Stewart’s Melville pupil was being treated for idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) – a treatable disease which hinders blood clotting and affects a fraction of the population – and told friends he would be home any day.

His family told the Evening News how he had expected a short stint in hospital but doses of steroids and repeated blood transfusions had failed to boost his platelet level when his condition deteriorated on Saturday.

Complaining of headaches, he was taken for a CT scan and surgeons moved to clear the blood on his brain but the bleeding proved too severe.

Today, his family, speaking at their home in Barnton, paid tribute to a popular and gifted sportsman who had a passion for music and was a proud member of the Fife Constabulary Pipe Band.

“His loves were rugby, pipe band and humour – he was very quick and witty with his one-liners,” said his father, Mike.

“Steven had been drawn to pipe bands from an early age and began learning the snare drum aged eight.

“His teachers used to get frustrated because every lesson they would have to get him to stop tapping his fingers.

“He was a talented musician. For his 21st he said he wanted a set of bagpipes and started teaching himself the chanter. At his party he walked in in front of his friends playing the bagpipes, and everyone was just amazed.

“He was a great leader and motivator, and going by what I have seen from his friends, he could be a light to people in their darker hours.”

A tribute written by one-time drum teacher Mick O’Neill read: “Steven moved to Fife Constabulary [Pipe Band] in 2008, and helped the band and drum corps to progress over the next four years.

“His sharp and very distinctive sense of humour made him a very popular guy, and we never had to wait too long to see his fantastic smile, or hear one of his wise-cracking one-liners.”

He added: “Steven Sims was an intelligent, funny, highly motivated young gentleman, who was devoted and much loved by all of his family and friends.”

Having signed up as an organ donor this year, many of Steven’s organs have now given others the gift of life.

Steven played number 10 or scrum-half at school and university level where he captained the side. He graduated with a BSc (Hons) degree in psychology and had recently won a job as a sales representative for Scotland with sports drink giants Gatorade and had moved back to the Capital.

Messages of condolence have flooded his Facebook page, with friends speaking of their devastation at their loss.

A funeral service will be held at Blackhall St Columba’s Church on Friday, June 8. He is survived by father Mike, mother Joan and sister Nicola.

Destructive disorder

Idiopathic thrombocyto-penic purpura (sometimes called immune thrombocyto-penic purpura) is a bleeding disorder in which the immune system destroys platelets, which are necessary for normal blood clotting.

The specific cause of ITP is unknown. ITP occurs when certain immune system cells produce antibodies against platelets. Platelets help your blood clot by clumping together to plug small holes in damaged blood vessels.

A very small percentage of people with ITP die from the disease or the treatments. The large majority of people find treatments that raise their platelet counts or successfully live with a low platelet count.

With treatment, the chance of remission is good. Rarely, ITP may become a long-term condition in adults. Possible complications include sudden and severe loss of blood from the digestive tract. Bleeding into the brain may also occur.