1. ITV Report

Contaminated blood survivor speaks out for first time

Paul Kirkpatrick is one of those affected by the contaminated blood scandal who has given evidence to the inquiry. Credit: UTV

A haemophiliac who once even received hate mail after being infected with Hepatitis C from contaminated blood has spoken publicly for the first time.

Paul Kirkpatrick feared his children would be mocked after he made the decision to tell his story.

“For me, this is a major, major decision to tell your story in public,” he said.

“I can handle it if people want to mock me, but when they mock or it affects your family, it becomes a different story.”

Mr Kirkpatrick was one of thousands of people infected with HIV or Hep C from contaminated blood products used in the 1970s and 80s.

The scandal has been labelled the worst treatment disaster in NHS history.

The thing that really rocks me is people are still dying. Thirty years after being infected – one in every four days, someone’s dying from Hepatitis C.

It could be me. It could be anyone in this room.

– Paul Kirkpatrick

An inquiry has now opened at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, for four days of hearings.

Its chairman, Sir Brian Langstaff, has vowed he will be frightened of no one and will put those affected and their families at the heart of the probe.

Mr Kirkpatrick was told by a doctor in 1987 that having contracted Hep C would not affect his life, but severe side effects of treatments left him in extreme pain, with fatigue, asthma and eczema.

Plus, he had to face the associated stigmas and live a life being told he was a public health risk - unable to even prepare his children’s food or allow them to get into his bed.

“My wife was following round the house sterilising everything to make sure there was no risk to the kids,” he said.

While Mr Kirkpatrick’s blood was recently cleared of Hep C following treatment, he lives in fear he has suffered liver damage and will develop cancer – like his brother, who died at the age of 51.

“I’d like to peel back the layers of the onion and see how far back this goes,” he told the inquiry.

Who was it that decided we shouldn’t be self-sufficient in bloods? Who pulled the funding from that?

Because we can’t let this happen again.

– Paul Kirkpatrick

Another woman to speak out is the daughter of a severe haemophiliac who died in 1990 after contracting HIV from contaminated blood.

She gave the enquiry an emotional account of her father’s premature death devastated the family, particularly his wife who passed away four years ago.

“She obviously also had the burden of the secrecy of it all, the stigma attached to it,” she said.

“My dad’s death was preventable and we owe it to him and to my mum and to our family to ensure that his life counts.”

Survivors of the blood scandal and victims’ families are hoping they can find some kind of closure or justice in having a light shone on the scandal and its subsequent handling.

However, many will give their testimonies anonymously because of the stigma that still surrounds the viruses they contracted through no fault of their own – and they say that must also change.

Sir Brian has thanked all the witnesses who have already given evidence, praising their courage.

The inquiry continues throughout this week.