Sister of infected blood scandal victim ‘can’t grieve due to anger’

A woman who lost her brother to the infected blood scandal has said anger is preventing her from grieving.

Patricia Kelly’s brother Seamus Conway died last year at the age of 45. The haemophiliac contracted hepatitis C from a contaminated blood product at the age of 11.

He died from liver cancer having previously developed cirrhosis of the liver.

Ms Kelly, from Londonderry, gave evidence to the Infected Blood Inquiry, sitting in Belfast, along with her sister Christina McLaughlin and brother John Conway.

Outside, Ms Kelly said: “Seamus was a character, the golden boy of the family is what he was called, because my mother and father ensured we protected him so much.

“That’s what makes it so hard to handle because of us having to all our life look after him and make sure he was OK and there was nothing to hurt him and nobody else hurt him – so it’s been horrendous for us.

Infected Blood inquiry
A photograph of Seamus Conway, who died last year at 45 from liver cancer (Brian Lawless/PA)

“Right now at the minute we are living off anger more than grief, we have never really got to grieve Seamus, it has been horrendous for us.

“When you see how many people who have passed away, not just haemophiliacs. People went in for a normal blood transfusion, people went in for a baby – the most joyous thing of your life – to be given a blood transfusion to be contracted with hepatitis C. To me that’s all wrong – it’s just not right.”

Ms McLaughlin said her brother, a talented snooker player who once beat Jimmy White, never got a fair shot at life.

She said when the family was first told he had contracted hepatitis C the doctors portrayed it as totally harmless.

“We were told it was fine that he had hepatitis C, that it wasn’t a big deal, we weren’t to worry about it,” she said.

“So we didn’t and he went on with his life. Unfortunately we shouldn’t have listened to that advice. Ten years ago Seamus was afforded a scan in Belfast Royal (hospital) to check on his liver and we assumed everything was fine because he was never sent for again and then he got another scan after going to the GP with pains in his tummy in 2017, 10 years later.

“Unfortunately that scan revealed that those pains in his tummy were actually cancer.”

Ms McLaughlin said he died six months later.

“He was horrified and terrified and so, so disappointed that he didn’t get a shot at life,” she said.

“Seamus left a daughter, she was 16, she’s 17 now, and she misses her daddy every day and he was so, so close to her and adored her.

“It was just a shame that he didn’t get to fulfil things in his life.”

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