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24 Oct 19
Infected Blood Inquiry – London (October) Hearings – Week 1, Day 1

Colin and Denise Turton

The first witnesses of the day were Colin and Denise Turton who gave evidence about their son Lee born in 1981, the first of their four children. Lee was diagnosed with haemophilia A as a baby. Lee was initially treated with cryoprecipitate; this was then changed to Factor VIII. Colin and Denise were not told of any risk of infection from Factor VIII. They told the Inquiry that they never would have given it to Lee if they had been made aware of such risks.

Colin and Denise recall becoming generally aware of news reports about AIDS. They were told there was no risk as Lee has received only British Factor VIII, not imported American Factor VIII. It was after this time, in March 1985 that Lee was diagnosed with HIV. He was four years old. The diagnosis was not shared with Colin and Denise until June 1985. A letter between doctors in March 1985 noted Lee’s diagnosis and that parents should be advised to wear gloves when administrating blood products. Denise was not told of the need to wear gloves.

Lee’s health started to go downhill in 1986. When Lee was 7, he was started on AZT treatment. Another child who was HIV positive at the same time was not receiving AZT at all and this led Colin and Denise to question whether Lee was being treated for research.

Colin and Denise talked about the stigma they faced as a result of Lee’s diagnosis. When Lee started school in 1985 his HIV positive status was leaked to the press who then hounded the family.  Lee died at the age of 10 years old. Colin and Denise were made aware many years later through medical records that Lee was also infected with Hepatitis C. Colin and Denise told the Inquiry how they continue to find it hard to trust medical professionals. They also shared the problems they had had with settlement money and with the McFarlane Trust.

Denise closed her evidence stating that the pain suffered by Colin and herself was nothing compared to the pain Lee had in his short life. Colin and Denise’s evidence ended with a home video of Lee’s last Christmas. He passed away four weeks later.

Susan Threakall

The next witness was Sue who spoke to the Inquiry about her husband Bob. He was born in 1943 and diagnosed with severe haemophilia A. His haemophilia did not prevent from Bob from leading a normal life and even enjoying sports such as badminton. Just before Sue and Bob were married in 1981, Bob learnt he had been infected with hepatitis B from contaminated Factor VIII. They were told it could go away in time and to continue with their lives. In hindsight, Sue believes that the damage to Bob’s liver began then.

Bob learned that he had been diagnosed as HIV positive in July 1985, although Bob’s medical records show that the positive result was known to doctors at the beginning of March. Sue and Bob were initially told to hold off from having more children for a few years due to Bob’s diagnosis. Bob sadly died in 1992.

Sue told the Inquiry of the various ways she struggled after Bob’s passed away. Sue had loved her career as a teacher but had to leave her job when Bob was unwell. Sue also told the Inquiry how she had suffered financially and the problems she had with the MacFarlane Trust. She notably shared how the Trust had an unwritten policy that widows who had ‘moved on’ by finding a new partner would not be eligible for financial help from the Trust.

Sue informed the Inquiry of the campaigning she had been a part of through Tainted Blood, stating that the fact that she is still campaigning 34 years later demonstrates there is something fundamentally wrong with our country. Sue ended her evidence with a tribute to those who were closely associated with Tainted Blood, some of whom campaigned for decades and are no longer with us.

Barry and Ronan Fitzgerald

The final witnesses of the day spoke about Jane, wife of Barry and mother of Ronan. Barry told the Inquiry that in 1978, when Jane was 17 she had a blood transfusion. Barry said he met Jane a year later and they married in 1984. Barry recalled than Jane was generally healthy until 2004 when a series of blood tests revealed that Jane had hepatitis C. This was later confirmed to be as a result of her blood transfusion.

As Jane was severely needle phobic, they had to seek treatment outside of the UK as Jane would not be able to have a liver biopsy and at this time there were no fibro scan machines available in the UK.  Jane was ultimately able to start treatment for her Hepatitis C in August 2014 as it did not have to be injected. Barry and Ronan shared how Jane’s health varied significantly during 2014 and 2015 until she sadly passed away in November 2015.

Roman told the Inquiry how he had to advise his father to fight to have ‘contaminated blood’ as a cause of death on his mother’s death certificate.

Although Jane’s diagnosis had impacted upon Barry and Jane’s social life as a couple, their relationship remained strong. Barry said they would “sink or swim together”. Roman shared that the stress of his mother’s illness had impacted on his own health.  Roman and Barry ended their evidence by reading out poems dedicated to Jane reflecting their feelings on her passing.

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