St Albans Hepatitis C woman to continue fight for compensation

PUBLISHED: 06:41 07 March 2011 | UPDATED: 12:35 11 March 2011

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Archant

A ST ALBANS woman has vowed to continue battling for compensation after being infected with Hepatitis C as a child from contaminated blood in what has been branded “the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.”

The haemophiliac was one of about 5,000 people with bleeding disorders infected with Hepatitis C after being given dodgy blood products procured from high-risk donors including prison inmates in the United States in the 1970s and ’80s.

About 2,000 people have since died as a result of receiving that contaminated NHS-supplied blood or blood products from high risk donors.

Lord Robert Winston dubbed the tainted blood incident as, “the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.”

The mum-of-two, who wants to be referred to as “Nicky” because of the stigma attached to the virus, said she received the contaminated blood during a tonsillectomy at the age of nine in 1980. She was given plasma because, as she suffers from haemophilia, her blood does not form clots and thus needs a blood protein known as “factor eight.”

Nicky’s exhaustive attempts to receive compensation for ongoing health problems has been rejected by the Skipton Fund – a UK-wide ex-gratia payment scheme established by the Department of Health to make payments to certain people infected with hepatitis as a result of the tainted blood.

It has turned down three appeals by Nicky, who has vowed to continue fighting for compensation.

She can chart a marked deterioration in her health since receiving contaminated blood as a child.

Nicky said: “From the age of nine, my life changed. All I wanted to do was sleep. The average child wants to play with their friends but I just wanted to sleep all the time. I would come home from school and go straight to bed.”

But she didn’t discover she had contracted the virus, which causes liver disease, until the age of 25 in 1995, when it was revealed while receiving treatment for an ankle injury. Results of blood tests taken four years earlier showed Nicky was Hepatitis C-positive but no one had told her those results back in 1991.

A haematologist then wrote to warn her she was in the “high risk” category of contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, commonly known as mad cow disease, from the contaminated blood.

Nicky has also since learned that although her body has naturally cleared itself of Hepatitis C, she has contracted Hepatitis G from the contaminated blood. It is a form of liver inflammation caused by the Hepatitis G virus (HGV), has been reported in adults and children worldwide and is found in about 1.5 per cent of blood donors in the United States.

Nicky has suffered a further blow to her health after being diagnosed with breast cancer which, given there is no family history of the cancer, she has attributed to both stress caused by the ongoing fight for compensation, and the tainted blood itself. The malignant lump has been removed and Nicky has had radiotherapy.

She has labelled the Skipton Fund criteria for paying compensation to those afflicted in the blood scandal as “discriminatory” as it does not include those whose bodies have naturally cleared of Hepatitis C, or those diagnosed with Hepatitis G.

The scheme only provides two levels of payments; one for people who develop chronic Hepatitis C infection and a further payment for those who then develop cirrhosis or primary liver cancer as a direct result of Hepatitis C infection from NHS blood or blood products.

A spokesman for the Fund confirmed it was set up to “exclusively” pay compensation to those who had developed chronic Hepatitis C infection only. The agency required proof that people had suffered a chronic infection for more than six months.

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I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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