Rugby fanatic dies days after discovering rare blood disease


A FORMER captain of St Andrews University rugby team was killed within days by a horrifying disease which destroyed almost all the platelets in his blood.

Steven Sims , 23, passed away at the weekend after arriving at his family home earlier in the week complaining that he was feeling unwell.

The fit sportsman and musician from Edinburgh is understood to have had a rash and bleeding gums.

Steven was brought to hospital on Tuesday but died four days later Photo:Sam Roberts 

A source said urgent blood tests showed that almost all the platelets in his blood – the substance which helps prevent haemorrhage – were missing.

He was rushed to hospital on but, despite numerous blood transfusions and steroid treatment, died on Saturday from bleeding on the brain.

It is believed he was killed by a rare but often fatal condition called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), which attacks and wipes out platelets.

Tributes have poured in for Steven, who was described by friends as “always smiling”.

The psychology graduate and member of Fife Constabulary Pipe Band had started working with sports drink giants Gatorade after leaving St Andrewslast summer.

A tribute on the Facebook page of the pipe band confirmed that he died on Saturday after what was described as a “short, but ultimately fatal illness”.

Steven graduated from St Andrews University last summer


A source said: “He came home to the family in Edinburgh on Tuesday saying he was feeling unwell. He had a rash and bleeding gums.

“His mum put a glass tumbler on the rash and it did not go away.

“A doctor did a blood test. He only had about 10% platelets left so they took him straight to hospital. They tried desperately to save him with blood transfusions but by Saturday he was dead.

“The family are absolutely devastated. Steven lost his grandfather to liver cancer within a few weeks last year.”

Speaking at their family home in Barnton, Edinburgh, parents Joan and Mike told how their son had a fantastic sense of humour.

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

“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 added: “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.”

Steven played the drums for Fife Constabulary Pipe Band


ITP, which affects about 3,000 people in the UK including Scottish tennis star Jamie Baker, happens when platelets are lost from the circulation faster than they can be replaced from the bone marrow where they are made.

The word “idiopathic” means the actual cause is uncertain but the condition can be genetically inherited.

Leukaemia, lymphoma,  lack of vitamin B12, excessive alcohol, or HIV are among other possible causes of ITP.

Symptoms of the condition can be identified as bleeding or bruising and it can be treated with blood transfusions if deemed life threatening.

Although sufferers can live with the condition given the right treatment, it can be a rapid killer if it flares up suddenly.

Having signed up as an organ donar earlier this year, many of Steven’s organs have now been donated to people in need of them.

Yesterday, scores of tributes were posted on the Facebook page of the former pupil at Stewart’s Melville private school in Edinburgh.

His death was announced by his sister Nicola on the page.

She said: “It was very sudden and a shock to all of us. He will be missed by everyone that he came in contact with.”

A statement on the pipe band Facebook page read: “It is with utmost sadness and deepest regret that Fife Constabulary Pipe Band announce the very sudden passing of drummer Steven Sims.

“Steven joined the band alongside his tutor and lead drummer Mick O’Neil in 2008 and was a stalwart member of the drum corp who was known to always bring a smile to anyone’s face.

“All band members are joined together in thoughts and prayers for Steven and his family at this very sad time.”

A friend Leslie Brown-Stankiewicz said: “Our prayers are with his family and friends. How very sad.”

Steven pictured with dad Mike and mum Joan 

Mark Geddis said: “My deepest condolences to the band and Steven’s family and friends. Tragic at any age, even more so with someone so young.”

Iain McClean said: “Words fail at such a tragic loss, so young and all ahead of one so talented. Thoughts with all in the band and his family at this sad time. RIP Steven, May the Flowers of theForestbe forever in bloom ‘er yer heid.”

Another tribute said: “Sleep well Steven, you were such a lovely guy, always smiling.”

Brittany Kennedy wrote: “Stunned by the devastating news. Never saw Steve without a smile on his face- he is a genuine example of someone who lived every day to the fullest. If we can all take a new appreciation for our life and health, Steve has done in passing what he was famous for in life- inspiring everyone around him to be and do better. Thoughts are with all his family and closest friends.”

Jacob Longstaff added: “You were a true gentleman and will be sorely missed.”

Scottish tennis star Jamie Baker, number three in Britain’s top ten tennis players, also suffers from the disease and came close to death before he was diagnosed.

The 25-year-old from Glasgow had been playing tennis in Mexico when he grazed his knee, which immediately bruised to the size of a golfball.

Shortly after the graze, Jamie’s gums started to bleed and large bumps and bruises started to appear all over his body.

He was then flown to Florida where he spent three days in Intensive care before being diagnosed with ITP.

The tennis star is now able to keep the disease under control using steroids and immunoglobulins, antibodies that can reduce platelet destruction.

A funeral service will be held on Friday June 8 at Blackhall, St Columba’s Church, Edinburgh.


  1. I am so sorry. We also lost a child; our 29 year old daughter and in womb 8 mo old grandson 2 years ago to ITP and complications of pneumococcal pneumonia. We are so sorry for your loss, poor prayers are with this family.

  2. I’m always saddened to hear of another life lost to this disease. I to have suffered since 1985, had a splenectomy, which they now know doesn’t work, so now I’m without a spleen. I’ve had 5 major recurrences since with platelets dropping under 5k. We can all only hope someday they’ll figure out the cause and create a cure.

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