Contaminated Blood Scandal: The Failed Victims 

Thousands were given contaminated blood by the NHS in a scandal which has killed at least 2,000 people. Here are some of their stories.

Michael Colyer, who lives in Barford with his wife Helen, suffers from mild haemophilia but found out 20 years ago he had contracted hep C.

The father-of-two said: "I found it had a very deep psychological effect. It was devastating in terms of work. I used to travel all over the world selling restored furniture but they found out about the hep C. I was offered a promotion by that company in 1995 and redundancy in 1996. I think it cost me my job because of the stigma attached to it.

“I was level three out of six in terms of damage to the liver and this means I have had to have three biopsies. You can be floored by some of the side-effects from the drugs.

“I had blisters all over my body, lost two stone because your appetite goes, my whole life was turned on its head. Then there is the fatigue and general malaise, which can suddenly hit you.

“One of the things they don't tell you about hep C is the depression and anxiety it can lead to. I don’t think there is enough offered in terms of support for people going through that.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m stable. My liver has remained at 50pc for 20 years but as far as I know the hep C has gone, though there’s always a small chance it will return.

“I realise in so many ways I’ve been lucky. It has been so hurtful to see half a dozen or so of my friends die, some of them younger than me and some with families.

“In the 1970s, David Owen proposed a half-a-million pound self-sufficiency programme for the country to be self-sufficient when it came to blood. I want to know why that wasn’t pursued. I suspect it was down to money.

“I believe we were seen to be an expensive option. The treatment was expensive and time-consuming and there were not really that many of us and that was at a time when money was tight. I think that is why this happened: importing blood cut down on manpower and cost.

“To challenge the government and prove criminal negligence you have to have a very strong case. The longer you leave something to fester, the harder it becomes. But they banged people up in France: why should this be any different?"

While blood products were mostly imported during the height of the scandal, blood was more readily available on these shores – but safety checks still did not take place.

It has been so hurtful to see half a dozen or so of my friends die, some of them younger than me and some with families
Michael Colyer

Annie Walker, of Mousehold House, Norwich, contracted hep C from blood transfusions at the age of 19.

Now 61, a successful course of new drugs called Sofosbuvir and a liver transplant mean she is free of the virus for the first time in decades.

She said: "I started to get really tired all the time. I'd get a job that I couldn’t fulfil so I’d leave, eventually going part-time. I just assumed I was lazy or getting old and couldn’t hack it.

“It was all going wrong, I was losing control of my life. The mixture of tiredness and general brain fog was really affecting me.

“I went to see a doctor and tests showed my liver was not right and there was a chance I had hep C.

“I had a friend who had got it and told the doctor I might have got it from having dinner with her, which I now know isn’t possible, but shows the general ignorance around it.

“The doctor phoned to say I had hep C, and from that point on my life was never the same again.

“I had four courses of drugs to try to eradicate it, but each time it would return within three months. The drugs are like hell on earth, all your energy goes, you just feel so sick.

“I’m now six months clear and there is a likelihood it will never come back. I feel so much better, though underlying conditions remain, such as a weakened immune system and osteoporosis.

“I just think it is disgusting they don’t do more to help the victims."

It was all going wrong, I was losing control of my life. The mixture of tiredness and general brain fog was really affecting me
Annie Walker

Di Sillett, 58, a mother of two from a previous marriage, has been married to hep C sufferer Steve Sillett for 19 years. After being diagnosed with liver cancer and given just a year to live, he is now free of hep C and haemophilia following a successful transplant.

She said: "When we were told about the hep C, I didn't realise all that would come our way.

“As time went on and he was poorly I didn’t know Steve, it wasn’t my husband. I just felt that he was taken away from me. Our marriage was affected every which way. It was so hard for me to watch him suffer and know that I couldn’t help him.

“We didn’t go out, we didn’t do anything for months and months and now we are going to get our life back we want to do things we haven’t been able to for years, such as have holidays and enjoy nice things without having to worry.

“I do feel angry about it. Through no fault of his own he’s had to go through all of this treatment."

"We've had 30 years of fighting and they need to sort something once and for all, it shouldn’t have taken this long."
Steve Sillett with wife Di and daughter-in-law Laura Rookyard

Jill Sutton, 58, of Newton Flotman, lost her father Peter Sutton, a Costessey postman, aged 64 in 1993 from liver failure. It was only afterwards that a post-mortem examination discovered he had hep C.

She said: "He needed blood transfusions in the early 1980s. Towards the end, he did suffer symptoms that we now think were caused by the hep C.

“I think his body had coped and coped with all he went through and then it just gave up. We think the combination of illnesses killed him and if we'd known we might have been able to do something about it.

“I’m still flabbergasted and angry this could happen. Maybe he would have died anyway, but as far as I’m concerned he died earlier than he should have done.

“I’d like them to make one big, proper heartfelt apology and to make sure this type of thing will never happen again."

"He was such a loving and caring person, we had a wonderful childhood and even now I miss him so much.
Peter Sutton died in 1993 aged 64.

See Friday's Eastern Daily Press for more on the contaminated blood scandal.

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