Horror of infected blood victim who could have ’caused death to whole family’
A haemophiliac and campaigner has said he feels “horror” thinking he may have passed on hepatitis unwittingly after being turned “into potentially a vehicle that could cause death to a whole family”.
Bruce Norval (pictured) was diagnosed with Hepatitis C aged 23 after being treated with contaminated blood products for his bleeding disorder, the Infected Blood Inquiry heard on Wednesday.
The Scots-born former nursing student, now in his mid-50s, criticised the public health response in the late 20th century, saying many medical practitioners viewed Hepatitis B and C “as if it’s a side-effect in isolation restricted to the patient”.
Referencing medical research from the late 1970s, Mr Norval told the inquiry, sitting in London: “We’re not talking about a side-effect here, we’re talking about a virus in a living being.
“Someone who is sent back out into the community, unknowingly, to have sex with the person they love, to interact with their families, play football, maybe cut themselves in the workplace.
“One of the biggest horrors I feel as an individual is the thought I may have hurt someone I don’t know, that I might have passed the virus on to someone else without meaning to.
“My daughter was drilled not to, but simple things like women stealing their dad’s razors to shave their legs and armpits – if that razor had been used before, the chances of transferring Hep B or C is quite high.
“We’re not talking about saving my life or saving my pain, we’re talking about turning me into potentially a vehicle that could cause death to a whole family.
“The way this is being talked about is as if we lived in isolation but we didn’t.
“We went to schools, to college, we had lovers, we had trysts from time to time, people had normal lives.”
Mr Norval, who previously lived in Edinburgh and Inverness, said he moved from a small town to London around the mid 1980s “because of the bigotry associated with HIV and haemophilia”.
The married father-of-two also recounted his sense of “betrayal and anger” in how he was told of his diagnosis at St Thomas’ Hospital in London in 1990 while his wife Christine was pregnant with their first child.
He said: “I was on my way in for twice-weekly blood tests. On the way in I bumped into a senior registrar… I said, ‘That blood test you took off me, did you ever get the results?’
“He said, ‘Oh yeah, you’re positive’ and just kind of walked off. He said, ‘You might get lymphoma, you might get liver cancer, liver decompensation, but it probably won’t happen’.
“I said, ‘What about my wife? She’s pregnant’, and he said, ‘We will test her, if she’s not got it, the baby won’t have it, don’t worry about it’, then he walked off and that was pretty much it.
“All I wanted from the doctor was a straight answer. Am I well enough to think about having a relationship? Is it safe?
“I had asked these questions countless times so there was a great sense of betrayal as well in that diagnosis.”
The inquiry is examining how thousands of patients were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.
About 2,400 people died in what has been labelled 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 would pay compensation to people affected by the scandal.
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