One of the thousands of people infected with Hepatitis C after he was given a contaminated blood product imported from the United States said he wants those responsible for the scandal to be held to account.
Richard, not his real name, spoke to CroxleyNews as the Contaminated Blood Public Inquiry affecting 5000 people infected with HIV/AIDS and/or hepatitis C opened at the end of last month.
Richard was born with haemophilia, and was infected through his treatment of concentrated Factor VIII, a blood clotting protein that haemophiliacs do not produce naturally. Blood supplies imported from the US were manufactured with blood collected from high risk groups who were paid to donate.
Richard said when he was first treated with Factor VIII, life changed as it became possible to have home treatment making the condition more manageable as no similar products were available and he led a ‘normal’ life until, when he was just ten years old, he found out he had been treated with infected blood products.
It was then that life was to change forever for Richard and his family as they found themselves becoming increasingly isolated.
He said: “Parents at my school were telling their children to stay away from me. I had no friends at school and I was isolated. I was the child who sat on my own even at breaktime, a very isolating experience. It significantly affected my schoollife. Back then, HIV test results took six months.
“This was compounded by the fact some of my parents’ friends isolated them. My Mum caught one of her friends throwing a knife and fork, plate and glass I had used in the bin. There was a lot of gravity and fear around the new diseases people were hearing about. The public knew little about these viruses.”
Richard was then sent for an HIV/AIDS test and although he did not contract HIV, he was infected with hepatitis C.
During his treatment with Factor VIII he developed a large spontaneous bleed one day. The product was not working regardless of the amount of injected. He was switched to a UK heat treated product which is clear of any viruses – after one injection the bleeding stopped.
Richard’s parents stood by their son, even starting a charity to fund research into new haemophilia treatments, and even though he has now been clear from hepatitis for a number of years, he will be forever left with the side effects of some of the medicines used to treat the condition which took two attempts to remove this virus from his body.
Richard said he is delighted that the inquiry is finally underway and wants to see those accountable for this disaster taken to task.
He added: “Drug companies are as responsible for this as the politicians and I hope they are scared of this inquiry. I want to know who is responsible and why. My hepatitis C infection was unnecessary, I had to go on a nasty drug programme which caused pain, flu-like symptoms, headaches, depression, very dark and scary thoughts and confusion. And while I have been clear of the infection for many years the drug treatment has left me with me with nerve damage.”
“Many layers of stupidity have led to where we are. Parts of my life were filled with nothing but torment and loneliness. The whole thing makes me feel dirty. This nasty infected muck that was injected into my veins will leave me with a higher risk from cancer due to how Hepatitis C impacts on the liver.
“I consider myself very lucky to have a wife, family and friends who have been amazingly supportive throughout. My friends that I eventually made never judged me. In fact they saw me through my Hep C treatment in my late teens and in many ways most likely saved me. It helps you to feel there is something left in humanity.
“My Dad used to run a business in St Albans and one day a woman walked in and recognised him. When they had both worked out that it was through Great Ormond Street Hospital Haemophilia department where she was a nurse there, she went deathly white and asked how I was. My father told her I was fine. She went on to tell my dad that most of the children she treated alongside me had passed away from AIDS through the same treatment I was on.
“To say I just feel incredibly lucky is an understatement.”