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23 May 19
Infected Blood Inquiry – Oral Hearing Belfast – Day 2

Witness No 1 Simon Hamilton

Mr Hamilton is Chair of Haemophilia Northern Ireland and was infected with Hepatitis C through contaminated blood products. Due to his Haemophilia, Mr Hamilton was treated with Cryoprecipitate and Factor VIII treatments on a number of occasions both at home and in hospital. Mr Hamilton’s medical records show that he had an abnormal liver test around 1984 and he was first tested positive for Hepatitis C on the 8th October 1990. However, he was not informed of this positive result until around 1994/1995.

He also told the Inquiry about a letter that he said had been sent from his consultant to his GP that revealed that 98% of all haemophiliacs who were treated with infected blood during or before 1985 would be told they are positive for hepatitis C.

In 2010, Mr Hamilton had a fibro scan which showed an advanced level of Fibrosis and Cirrhosis of the liver. Mr Hamilton was then placed on a surveillance program by the hospital which means that he is now scanned every 6 months in order to monitor the condition of his liver. He described that he was grateful but for this process but said it made him anxious as he was aware doctors are testing him for liver cancer.

Mr Hamilton underwent his first course of treatment for Hepatitis C in 2010. He described the side effects as very severe causing his immune system to completely shut down. Initially, it appeared that the treatment was successful and he had cured the virus. However, the Hepatitis C returned.

In 2013 Mr Hamilton underwent a second course of treatment. This was successful in clearing the virus.

Mr Hamilton then went on to describe how he suffered a brain haemorrhage. He did not believe that he was going to survive and this caused immense upset to his family.

Mr Hamilton described how at the moment he lives 6 months at a time based on the outcome of each of his liver scans.

Mr Hamilton lost two cousins to infected blood. Losing them has been incredibly difficult for him as it has made Mr Hamilton consider what the effects would be on his own family if they were to lose him.

Mr Hamilton thanked the Chair of the Inquiry and described how he belongs to a community of damaged people who deserve support.

Witness No 2 Danielle Mullan

Mrs Mullan is the daughter of Marie Cromie who after receiving a blood transfusion in 1981 became infected with Hepatitis C. Mrs Mullan told the Inquiry how her mum had become quite unwell around 2003 when Mrs Mullan was 16 years old. She was tired and had pains in her legs and went for tests. She was told that she had Hepatitis C in 2005.

It has since come to light that Mrs Cromie’s medical records from November 1981 record ‘infective Hepatitis’. Mrs Cromie was never informed that she had Hepatitis back then.

Mrs Mullan described how her mum’s diagnosis came around the time she was doing her GCSE’s. She confided in some friends about her mom’s infection and word got round her school causing her to suffer from the stigma associated with Hepatitis C. Mrs Mullan became her mum’s carer.

Mrs Mullan described an emotional time when she found her mother very ill and she had to be taken to hospital. Her mother was put on the liver transplant list and Mrs Mullan described what a difficult time this was. Eventually Mrs Cromie did get her liver transplant but unfortunately that liver turned out to be cirrhotic.

In order to have a second transplant, Mrs Cromie was told that she would need to clear the Hepatitis C virus. The treatment for Hepatitis C came with awful side effects including tiredness, depression and weight loss. Finally, a second liver was found for Mrs Cromie and the transplant was successful. Whilst Mrs Cromie can now manage better, her health problems are not over.

Mrs Mullan described her concerns that she may have also been infected with Hepatitis C herself.

Mrs Mullan then thanked Sir Brian and her family and friends and stressed the importance of the Inquiry given the victims the answers they deserve.          

Witness No 3 Mr F

Mr F suffers from Haemophilia A and was treated with Factor VIII products. He was not warned about any risks of infection. Mr F described how at a regular check up he was told that a haemophiliac had been infected with HIV through the blood products. Mr F wanted to be tested for HIV and the result came back negative. Unfortunately his Hepatitis C test came back positive. At the time, he was told not to worry. However, Mr F realised the impact on this lifestyle that the virus could have and he changed his lifestyle and ceased drinking.

Mr F described his first course of treatment for the Hepatitis C. He said the side effects were awful.

Mr F described that his employment suffered as a result of both the infection and the course of treatment. He has had to revise his hours and has suffered financially for this. His wife has had to continue to work full time because he has not been able to.

Mr F described how he had received a cheque from the Skipton Fund but these payments don’t bare any comparison to what he would have received had he been able to continue to work full time.

Witness No 5 Mrs G and Mrs H

Mrs G and Mrs H are sisters. They told the Inquiry about that their two brothers, both of whom had severe Haemophilia A and were treated with Factor VIII blood products. Both of the brothers became infected with HIV and subsequently died.

The sisters described how when each of their brothers passed away, their remains were taken to the funeral in a closed coffin which was unusual in their community. They did not get to see them to say goodbye which left a terrible mark on the family.

The sisters described how one of their brothers’ medical records had been lost by the Trust, however some of them have recently been located.

The brothers were never, according to the sisters, informed of the risk of the blood products that they were using.

Speaking about their younger brother, the sisters explained that he had kept his diagnosis a secret. He went into self destruct mode and felt suicidal.

The sisters described the terrible physical effects of their younger brother’s condition which included bad moods, depression and night sweats. The Inquiry was told about how the whole family were called into the hospital for blood tests. The sisters thought they were being tested for the haemophilia gene and did not realise that in fact they were being tested for HIV.

The sisters explained how both of their brothers were effectively given a death sentence and they consider them to have been murdered.

Mrs H described how she got a handwritten letter through her letter box telling her to get herself checked for HIV. The sisters described how the impact of their brothers’ deaths totally tore the family apart. There are always people missing from the special occasions and the photographs.

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