Man speaking publicly about contaminated blood infection ‘a major decision’
A haemophiliac infected with hepatitis from contaminated blood products has spoken publicly about his ordeal for the first time.
Paul Kirkpatrick, from Londonderry, gave evidence to the first Northern Ireland sitting of the UK’s Infected Blood Inquiry.
The inquiry, based in London, is moving around the UK to hear from witnesses in Belfast, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Leeds
“This is the first time I’ve told my story publicly and that’s been massive for me,” Mr Kirkpatrick told the opening hearing in Belfast.
“For me this is a major, major decision to tell your story in public.”
The senior manager for a manufacturing company said he feared his children would be “mocked” for his decision to share his story in a public forum.
He said lessons had to be learned from the inquiry.
“We have to stop this from happening again, it can’t happen,” he said. “We have to learn, we have to get to the bottom of this.
“What really rocks me is people are still dying, 30 years after being infected, one in every four days someone is dying from hep C.
“It could be me, it could be anyone in this room. Why is this happening? It shouldn’t be happening.”
Mr Kirkpatrick told the inquiry he was treated with blood products for haemophilia as a young child in the mid-1970s.
He was informed in the 1980s that he had contracted hepatitis B and hepatitis C from contaminated products.
Mr Kirkpatrick said at that time a doctor told him he would continue to be treated with potentially contaminated product, despite his confirmed infection.
He said the doctor’s rationale was that he was already infected, probably had been for a long time and had shown no real side-effects.
“We were continually being put at risk with product that was potentially contaminated,” he said.
Mr Kirkpatrick told the panel his health remained good until 1999, when he started a new treatment for hepatitis, which caused a range of negative side-effects including skin problems and gastric issues.
“That changed me,” he said. “I became very difficult and maybe not the easiest one to live with at the time.”
He said he does like to complain about his pain, adding: “If I’m in vast pain I will lock myself in the house.”
Mr Kirkpatrick, whose blood was recently cleared of hepatitis C after treatment, spoke of the impact of the infection on his family and raising his twin boys.
“My blood was always open and my wife was following round the house sterilising everything to make sure there was no risk to the kids,” he said.
“That was a real focus of our lives bringing up our children.”
He said he would not touch dummies, prepare food or allow the children to get into his bed when he had open wounds.
“Like any parent you want to protect your kids first and foremost, and both of us did that as best we could,” he said.
“There was fear they would be contaminated in some fashion.”
Mr Kirkpatrick described the impact of the infection on his life. He said he lives with the fear that his liver has been damaged and he would develop cancer.
“We are continually exposed to major life-threatening events, continually. It’s the whole of my life,” he said.
“It messes with your head, all these things mess with your head.
“We are trying to lead a normal life, but when you talk to people you realise it’s not normal, but for us it’s normal.”