My World Came Crashing Down When My Father Died From Being Given Contaminated Blood

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Let me tell you a tale about how my family was torn apart.

It’s a story that still makes my heart ache with pain and sadness, even almost 20 years after it happened. 

The BIGGEST public health disaster in HISTORY is currently being investigated. The results will be announced in a few days. 

People were knowingly given infected blood and then left to die, slowly over many years. 

The Infected Blood Scandal

In 2005, aged just 53, my father died. He had a massive infection caused by irreversible liver damage (cirrhosis of the liver). 

But in order for you to understand the full picture and the magnitude of this tragedy, I need to take you back in time.

From wedded bliss to a near miss

Hep C infected blood victim peter nowak

It’s the 1970’s. My parents are wildly in love. My father has fallen head over heels for a headstrong, fun-loving blonde beauty. He’s 27 years old and has his whole life ahead of him.

In 1979, they tied the knot at PennyHill Park, with Mum turning up in a horse-drawn carriage in a stunning vintage dress (which, by the way, I wore as a skirt on my own wedding day). 

But their wedded bliss was quickly stolen from them. Just three months after they were married, my dad had a serious car crash. His car wrapped around a tree. His leg got trapped in a barrage of metal. Hot engine oil seared his ankle, burning his flesh. Due to the sheer agony, he tore his leg through the metal carnage, ripping his tendons in the process. 

He very nearly died. But thank goodness the ambulance arrived and managed to save him. 

He was given a blood transfusion on the scene and in hospital. The blood he was given was contaminated. But no one told him this. 

He then spent three months bedridden in hospital recovering. He wrote a letter to his wife every single day, detailing his experience and professing his love for her. It certainly wasn’t the start to married life my parents had hoped for.

We’ll save your life, but there’s a catch

But there was a catch. He was saved –  but at a huge cost. 

The blood that was given to him to save his life actually ended up poisoning him.

They were giving life, then taking it away.

He, like thousands of other victims, was given contaminated blood. Blood that was known to be high risk. Blood that officials knew could give people deadly diseases like Hepatitis C. 

You may be shocked by this. But hold on to your seat because this nightmare gets EVEN WORSE.

How? Well, it was known that this blood could be contaminated. 

A lot of it was taken from high-risk individuals such as US prisoners. Government officials knew about it. Doctors knew about it. BUT NO ONE SAID A WORD.

Not only did they give these people a death sentence – they didn’t even bother to let them know.

And do you know what’s so tragic about that? Thousands of lives COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED.

Hepatitis C, for example, can be cured if treated properly. These people weren’t given the chance to save themselves. They were left to die slowly. To experience symptoms that ruined their lives. 

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t wish this fate upon my worst enemy. A slow, painful death. And no time to properly say goodbye to your loved ones. 

The silent killer

After the car crash, my dad spent a long time recovering, and he tried to resume life as normal.

He had no idea he had been given blood containing hepatitis C.

For years, he had an open wound on his ankle. It just wouldn’t heal. He tried skin grafts and alternative treatments, but nothing worked. 

We now know his wound probably didn’t heal because his immune system was compromised. His leg wasn’t investigated properly. I’m still dumbstruck as to how no one questioned this. Surely, if a wound isn’t healing, there’s got to be a reason?

My father always seemed healthy to me. But as he got older, he started to get ill fairly often with flu-like symptoms. He suffered from mood swings and always seemed to be tired and drained. But we didn’t think anything was seriously wrong. The problem with Hep C symptoms is that a lot of them can be difficult to pinpoint. It’s often called the silent killer for this reason.

Then, aged 53, he collapsed whilst mowing the lawn. My mum took him to the GP, and he was sent straight to the hospital. 

My mum, my sister and I were eventually called into a hospital room where we were told the news he, in fact, had Hepatitis C. 

We didn’t really realise what this meant, and we were hopeful he would recover. We also had to deal with the fear that he could have given it to us and quickly had to arrange a test. 

The government had not only sentenced my dad to a horrible death; they’d put my entire family at risk, too. 

Somehow, we all came back negative. But my father was still scared all the time.

I remember at Christmas, we’d given him a photo album with little motivational notes. It made him cry. 

I went over to give him a cuddle and comfort him, but he told me to stay away because he was scared his tears would contaminate me. 

Over a period of four months, I watched my father start to wither away. It was as though he’d aged 20 years in a few months. He began to look really frail and gaunt. He didn’t look like Dad anymore. I was still hopeful, though I never, ever thought he would be taken from me.

I was 18 years old. I’d just started university. I wanted to make my father proud, so despite everything that was going on, I continued with my studies. 

New liver, new lease of life?

My father was on the liver transplant list. We waited and waited, praying that he would be given a chance at life. His health deteriorated, but the doctors were happy for him to come and spend a few days at home for Christmas. 

On the 27th of December, my dad was feeling unwell. He was feeling poorly in bed. I think he wasn’t letting on how bad he felt. I thought he was OK. So I said I was going to spend the night at my boyfriend’s house. He said he’d love for me to stay, but he wanted me to live my life. He told me to go have fun.

The next morning my mum called me and said I think you better come home. Your dad’s not well. So I came back immediately to see him. I remember he was in his room gathering his stuff for the hospital, but he seemed quite confused and a little delirious. I was worried, but I didn’t know that he was showing signs of a bad infection. 

Mum helped him in the car, and I had a strange feeling. I knew I should tell him I loved him. So I did. And that’s the last time I saw him. 

He was waiting for a new liver, but he didn’t get it in time. His liver packed in, and he suffered a massive infection. 

My mum thinks he passed out and may have died on the way to the hospital. She was told not to take him to our local hospital and to drive him to the liver specialist in London. 

Mum navigated a hellish journey through London as my father went in and out of consciousness. No one helped her when she first arrived. She had to shout for help. There were attempts to save him, but it was too late. 

I sensed something was wrong and started driving me and my sister into London. But on the slip road of the M25, my mum called my sister. My sister told me Dad was dead.

We both screamed. I stared at the road, trying to maintain control when my heart was breaking. 

The government stole my dad from me

infected blood contaminated blood victim

If someone had acted. If just ONE PERSON had spoken out, my dad could be alive today.

One phone call that’s all it would have taken.

I’m so unbelievably angry. That anger will never subside. 

How can the government be so cruel and irresponsible? How can they knowingly let people die?

I lost my whole world that day, and I’ve never really properly put myself back together. How can you when a loved one’s cause of death is intertwined with so much controversy, cruelty and incompetence?

The cold, hard facts

Blood wasn’t properly screened until 1991. Between the 1970s and 1990s, thousands of people were given infected blood. 

3,000 people have died as a direct result of this. 3000!!! Just let that number sink in. Deaths that could have easily been prevented. 

I’ve also learned that the NHS carried on giving people infected blood even after virus screening started. There wasn’t a process to stop the old, unchecked blood from being used.

Now, giving these people tainted blood is bad enough. But then, not telling them? No one spoke out. There was a HUGE COVER-UP.  It’s the worst medical scandal in history. 

And when people became concerned and tried to check their records, they were denied access. Files were deleted. Documents hidden. 

So many people have already died, and it’s estimated that an infected person still dies every four days. 

Change is all I can hope for

I can’t bring my father back. No matter how much I hate the government and the people that did this. I can only look forward to a brighter future. A future where nothing like this EVER happens again. 

On Monday, the 20th of May, the results of the enquiry will be announced. 

So, what do I want from the results of The Infected Blood Inquiry? I want people to be held accountable. I want a proper apology. But most of all, I want to know what actions are going to be taken to stop another scandal like this. 

How can I feel safe when being treated by any NHS doctor or nurse? I don’t think my faith will ever be restored. But I want some justice for the victims. I want measures to be put in place to protect patients. 

They will also be announcing whether the children of victims will receive compensation. No amount of money will ever be sufficient for my dad’s life. But if he had a say, it’s what he would want. He’d want to know at least my sister and I had some help after everything we’ve been put through. We had to grow up without a father, and it has left a gaping hole that will always be tainted by the disgusting scandal that caused his death. 

After the results, I intend to try to finally move on with my life. But I felt like I had to sign off with a bang, and hopefully, this article is something my father would be proud of. 

I love you Dad. I’m so sorry you lost your life in this way. I will forever hold you in my heart.

hep c infected blood inquiry

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