The second week of the oral evidence hearings commenced in London today with three witnesses sharing their stories.
The first witness today was Lauren Palmer. Lauren lost both of her parents as a result of her father receiving contaminated blood products. Lauren’s father contracted HIV and hepatitis C and subsequently passed both viruses on to his wife. Lauren’s father was diagnosed with HIV in 1985 and later discovered he had also contracted hepatitis B and hepatitis C in 1991. It was only a year later that Lauren’s mother was diagnosed with both viruses.
The Inquiry heard that Lauren’s parents were admitted to hospital in 1993, Lauren was 9 years old at the time. Lauren’s father passed away and within 8 days, Lauren also lost her mother.
Lauren’s evidence described the devastating affects of not only losing both parents but also the fact she was separated from her two half brothers that she had lived with her entire life . Lauren described the recurrent ‘grief’ she felt whilst travelling home from visiting her brothers on weekends. Lauren told the Inquiry that she never felt as though she belonged in her ‘new family’ and found herself often pining for the affection she used to receive off her mother.
The second witness of the day was Fiona Rennie, a witness with Von Willebrands disease who contracted hepatitis C as a result of receiving contaminated blood products.
Fiona explained the effects that having hepatitis C had on her employment as a paramedic. Even though Fiona had cleared the hepatitis C she went through a struggle with her employers to demonstrate she no longer had the virus and enable her to resume her role as a paramedic.
Fiona spoke of the emotional turmoil she experienced whilst living with hepatitis C, specifically referring to frequent bouts of paranoia and fears that she would infect those closest to her.
Before concluding her evidence to the Inquiry, Fiona added that her most vivid memory whilst going through this process was watching her triplets queuing up in the doctor’s surgery waiting to be tested for hepatitis C.
The final witness giving oral evidence today was Michelle Tolley. Michelle received a number of blood transfusions during the late 1980s and early 1990s due to complications she had during child birth. Unbeknown to Michelle the transfusions left her infected with hepatitis C.
Throughout her evidence to the Inquiry, Michelle explained that she had experienced difficulties with medical professionals listening to her over a number of years. Michelle explained to the Inquiry that she made an appointment with her GP for a blood test after seeing an advertisement on the television about the risk of contracting hepatitis C from blood transfusions and contaminated products. Michelle stated that she was denied a blood test which would determine if she had hepatitis C.
During a very emotional part of her evidence, Michelle told the Inquiry that her medical records showed she had contracted hepatitis C in 1991 but was not informed of this information until November 2015. Michelle explained that by this point she had already developed cirrhosis of the liver.
In her final words to the Inquiry, Michelle stated that she believed it was crucial that haemophiliacs and those who had been infected via transfusion work in unison in order to raise awareness for victims of the contaminated blood scandal.