HEP C scandal: Haemophilia’s horror of getting infected with contaminated blood at age 23

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A hemophiliac activist has said he feels “disgusted” at thinking he may have unknowingly passed on hepatitis after “turning into a potentially vehicle that could kill an entire family.”

Bruce Norval was diagnosed with hepatitis C at age 23 after being treated with contaminated blood products for his bleeding disorder, the Infected Blood Inquiry learned Wednesday.

The Scottish-born former nursing student, now in his mid-50s, criticized the public health response at the end of the 20th century, saying that many doctors regarded Hepatitis B and C “as if it were a side effect in itself limited to the patient.” ‘ .

Bruce Norval, pictured, was infected with hepatitis C at the age of 23 after receiving a contaminated blood product from the United States to treat his hemophilia

Bruce Norval, pictured, was infected with hepatitis C at the age of 23 after receiving a contaminated blood product from the United States to treat his hemophilia

Theresa May, pictured in the House of Commons today, announced the investigation into the blood scandal while Prime Minister in 2017

Theresa May, pictured in the House of Commons today, announced the investigation into the blood scandal while Prime Minister in 2017

Theresa May, pictured in the House of Commons today, announced the investigation into the blood scandal while Prime Minister in 2017

Mr Norval said he was diagnosed at St Thomas' Hospital in London in 1990 while his wife was expecting their first child.

Mr Norval said he was diagnosed at St Thomas' Hospital in London in 1990 while his wife was expecting their first child.

Mr Norval said he was diagnosed at St Thomas’ Hospital in London in 1990 while his wife was expecting their first child.

Referring to medical research from the late 1970s, Mr Norval told the inquiry, sitting in London: ‘We are not talking about a side effect here, we are talking about a virus in a living being.

Someone who is unknowingly sent back into the community to have sex with the person they love, hang out with their family, play soccer, or cut themselves at work.

“One of the greatest horrors I feel as an individual is the thought that I may have hurt someone I don’t know, that I may have passed the virus on to someone else without intention.

“My daughter was drilled not to do that, but simple things like women stealing their father’s razors to shave their legs and armpits – if that razor had been used before, the chances of transmission of Hep B or C are quite high.” .

“We’re not talking about saving my life or saving my pain, we’re talking about turning me into a potential vehicle that could cause the death of an entire family.

“The way this is talked about is like we were living in isolation, but we didn’t.

Hepatitis C Scandal

1970s-1980s: Nearly 5,000 British haemophiliacs are infected with hepatitis C and in some cases HIV through contaminated blood clotting products from the United States

1990s: Victims start receiving reports from the Blood Transfusion Service warning them that they may be infected

February 2009: The two-year Sandwell study – which was privately funded – found the use of contaminated blood products ‘a horrific human tragedy’

September 2016: Former Health Secretary Lord David Owen admits scandal has been covered up

November 2016: House of Commons motion declares scandal ‘one of the biggest treatment disasters in the NHS’

January 2017: Welsh Assembly calls for full public inquiry

July 2017: Prime Minister Theresa May announces full public inquiry into the scandal

*The Hep C virus was first described in the 1990s and is now curable

“We went to schools, to college, we had lovers, we had occasional rendezvous, people had normal lives.”

Mr Norval, who previously lived in Edinburgh and Inverness, said he had moved from a small town to London in the mid-1980s “because of the intolerance associated with HIV and haemophilia”.

The married father of two also shared his sense of ‘betrayal and anger’ in being told of his diagnosis in 1990 at London’s St Thomas’ Hospital while his wife Christine was pregnant with their first child.

He said: ‘I was on my way for blood tests twice a week. On the way in, I ran into a senior registrar… I said, “That blood test you took from me, did you ever get the results?”

He said, ‘Oh yeah, you’re positive’ and just walked away. He said, “You could get lymphoma, you could get liver cancer, liver decompensation, but it probably won’t happen.”

“I said ‘And my wife? She’s pregnant’ and he said ‘We will test her, if she doesn’t have it, the baby won’t get it, don’t worry’, then he walked away and that was it pretty much.

“All I wanted from the doctor was a straight answer. Am I good enough to think about being in a relationship? Is it safe?

“I had asked these questions countless times, so there was a great sense of betrayal in that diagnosis as well.”

The study examines how thousands of patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C by contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

About 2,400 people died in what has been described as the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock recently told the inquiry that if it recommends it, the government will pay compensation to people affected by the scandal.

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