The first witness on the third day of the Inquiry’s Edinburgh hearings was Mr X.
Mr X began his evidence by discussing a blood transfusion he received during the late 1970s for a work related injury. Mr X explained how it took him a while to recover from the injury, however for many years he lived a normal life and still participated in his hobbies such as mountain climbing and even competing in triathlons.
Mr X’s health began to deteriorate after many years of feeling fit and active. He was told by his GP he was ‘burning the candle at both ends’ and that he was simply fatigued. Mr X requested further tests which showed he was hepatitis C positive. The GP went onto ask him about whether he was an drug user or alcoholic, Mr X said this should not have been assumed by the GP.
Mr X told the Inquiry he started his first round of treatment in 2005. He described the side effects of the interferon treatment as being “napalmed inside and out”. Following the first round of treatment Mr X explained how his tolerance had gone, he frequently had suicidal thoughts and his body was blistered from head to toe.
Mr X explained to the Inquiry how he was part of a campaigning group that made recommendations to the Scottish Executive. One of Mr X’s recommendations was that counselling should be offered to all those infected and affected as effective measures regarding this were not in place when Mr X was told he was hepatitis C positive. Mr X concluded his evidence by stating that medical professionals need to be more educated on how hepatitis C is transmitted as it is still assumed this is transmitted through drug and alcohol misuse.
The second witness of the day, Mrs Y, gave evidence in regards to her husband.
Mrs Y told the Inquiry how her husband was a mild haemophiliac whose condition had little impact on his life. Mrs Y explained that her husband was a healthy man who worked very hard. At a routine appointment at the haemophilia centre they received the news that her husband had tested positive for hepatitis C. Mrs Y explained that her husband was simply given a leaflet and was told to take extra precautions when it came to personal hygiene. Mrs Y described her husband’s frustration at not being tested sooner for the virus.
Mrs Y described the treatment her husband received for the hepatitis C as being worse than the virus itself. She explained in detail how the side effects of the Interferon treatment drove him to drink alcohol and become verbally abusive. Mrs Y said her husband moved out of the family home and frequently stated he wanted to end his own life.
The Inquiry heard how Mrs Y’s husband died in 2010 from a brain haemorrhage. Mrs Y stated she had “lost the man she loves and her best friend”.
The Inquiry heard evidence from witness Pauline Reid. Pauline suffers from Von Willebrands disease. As a result of her condition, Pauline received Cryoprecipitate and factor products.
Pauline told the Inquiry that when she was pregnant in the early 1990s she was given a leaflet by a nurse who told her not to read it until she returned from her holidays. Pauline looked at the leaflet as soon as she left the hospital and it discussed Hepatitis. Pauline then found out she had first tested positive for hepatitis C in 1992 but was not told until 2 years later.
Pauline described the stigma she experienced during a stay at the hospital and said on one occasion an ‘out of order’ sign was placed on the door of the toilet as it was to be used only by her.
Pauline concluded her evidence by stating she feels very lucky to be at the Inquiry today, she feels lucky only physically and not mentally.
Mr and Mrs X
The final witnesses of the day were anonymous witnesses, Mr and Mrs X. The Inquiry heard how Mr X, a severe haemophiliac, received cryoprecipitate treatment first and then factor VIII.
Mr X explained to the Inquiry that it was in 1985 when he was discovered to be HIV positive. He stated that the stigma he experienced was horrendous, particularly the fact that information regarding this was disclosed between doctors without his consent. Mr X then discovered in his medical records that his GP was notified he had hepatitis C in 1992. However, Mr X was not told until the mid 1990s.
Mr X stated that he nearly lost his life in the mid 2000s as the Interferon treatment weakened his immune system to the extent that septicaemia had spread to his heart valves. Thankfully Mr X survived but has not recovered from the side effects of the Interferon treatment. He told the Inquiry the power of prayer has been key in his recovery.