‘No one listened to us’: Two mothers reveal how infected blood scandal devastated their lives as they battled chronic illness while fighting for justice
- Nicola Leahy or Michelle Tolley did not know they were infected with hepatitis C
- They are among up to 30,000 people who contracted the same illness
- They are encouraging victims to speak out as the Infected Blood Inquiry begins
Two mothers spoke out about how the infected blood scandal has devastated their lives.
For decades Nicola Leahy and Michelle Tolley battled with chronic illness and crippling fatigue. Neither knew they had been infected with hepatitis C through blood transfusions.
They are among up to 30,000 people who contracted the same illness and/or HIV via contaminated blood and blood products in the NHS treatment disaster. They want to encourage other victims to come forward – fearing they may be too ashamed to speak out or have not been diagnosed.
Their call comes as the Infected Blood Inquiry this week begins to examine how thousands who required blood after childbirth, miscarriage or accidents were let down by NHS transfusion services.
Nicola Leahy, 69, from Lancashire, spent much of her career as an NHS patient care chief before she was forced into early retirement through illnes
Mrs Leahy is likely to have been infected via blood transfusions during the troubled birth of her third child in 1980 at Billinge Hospital in Wigan
Mrs Leahy, 69, from Lancashire, spent much of her career as an NHS patient care chief before she was forced into early retirement through illness. ‘I’m an NHS person, I don’t have a suspicious mind. But I have to ask, did they ignore, or not recognise, what had happened to me?’ she said.
The grandmother of five is likely to have been infected via blood transfusions during the troubled birth of her third child in 1980 at Billinge Hospital in Wigan.
‘I picked up every infection going from flu to pneumonia and sarcoidosis,’ she said.
‘I came in with different illnesses. I kept going back to the doctors as I had a lot of sore throats and colds. They classed me as a hypochondriac. I was always dismissed.
‘I felt like I was failing as a mother and as a wife as I did not have the energy to do activities with my children or enjoy socialising.’
Mrs Leahy is now free of hepatitis C but has been left with debilitating side-effects and conditions including osteoporosis. She said she faced questions from doctors that made her feel she was ‘an alcoholic prostitute’.
Mrs Tolley, 56, had also repeatedly visited her GP with severe fatigue and was also dismissed – even when she specifically asked to be tested for hepatitis C.
The mother from Norwich believes she was infected when she had a transfusion after the birth of her first child in 1987 at Barking Maternity Hospital in Essex, which was followed by another in 1991 after a caesarean for her twins. Twenty-eight years after she was infected, further tests finally revealed she had hepatitis C.
Mrs Tolley, who runs an online support group, Contaminated Whole Blood UK, said: ‘After my diagnosis, I would see a coffin that had my name on it. I felt very let down by the system, and at times I felt I was on a downward spiral.’
She added: ‘I was given a death sentence without committing any crime.’
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