Advising with empathy and experience

Boy, 7 among the tragic toll of contaminated blood.

One victim of the contaminated blood scandal was a boy aged only seven, the public inquiry has heard.

Colin Smith, a haemophiliac, died in 1990 after being given infected blood products.

His parents, Colin and Janet Smith, were told in the hospital corridor he had been infected with HIV, when he was two. They later suffered a lot of abuse, including graffiti on the side of their house.

Their consultant, the late prof Arthur Bloom, a haematologist at University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, and one the UK’s leading experts, heard they were upset after they were given the news about their youngest son and saw them in a private room.

Mr Smith, from Newport, added: "He said 'HIV, he's one of the unlucky few' - we assumed there were one or two cases but as it turned out, there's thousands."

Mrs Smith said the Aids awareness TV advertising campaign at the time also had a "devastating" impact and then news got out locally.

She said: "We started getting 'Aids - dead' written on the house, not little letters, but 6ft-high ones on the side of the house; crosses on the door, our car was vandalized, people went across the street from us, threatening to take their children out of school if Colin went there. It was devastating."

Mr Smith said there were constant phone calls "day and night". He lost his job after the diagnosis because his employer was scared he'd lose customers.

He was seen as unemployable, while their children - Colin was the youngest of four - were known as the "Aids kids" at school and also suffered abuse.

Mrs Smith said Colin's friends at school were "beautiful" and, while the teachers were supportive, other parents were a problem.

Mr and Mrs Smith gave evidence at a hearing in Cardiff as part of an investigation into the UK-wide contaminated blood scandal. Others have been held in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

At least 300 victims from Wales were left with chronic or life-limiting conditions, such as hepatitis or HIV, after receiving contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 80s.

The Smiths believe their son was used as part of a trial of blood products without their consent.

The inquiry heard prof Bloom had written that hepatitis infection was a risk for haemophiliacs, but this had never been communicated to the Smiths.

Mrs Smith, who said that the family was known as ‘The Aids family for some time’, added: "We just believed the doctors. Prof Bloom was like a god to us."

In their statement to the inquiry, they said they believed Colin had been deliberately targeted to test blood products.

His parents said Colin loved life, was brave and never complained but they believed he knew he was going to die.

His mother said once, after a row with his brother, he said 'you're going to miss me when I'm gone. You can have all my toys.’

Mrs Smith added: "We want to make sure people know it was children taken away. It took lives, maimed people, crippled with such horrible things. We need justice. We need something done about this. It's just so wrong and I get really angry about it. We feel maybe we're getting somewhere for the first time in all these years."

Former high court judge, Sir Brian Langstaff, and his inquiry aim to get to the bottom of what went wrong.

A blood donor told the inquiry how she continued to give blood twice a year for six years - unaware she had been given hepatitis C after an infected blood transfusion in 1986.

Elaine Huxley said she had wanted to "give something back" but was now concerned her blood "could have infected babies and children who hadn't had a chance in life.”

There are no hospital records of her care after the transfusion, following a hysterectomy, because they had been destroyed.

Ms Huxley said: "I can't believe I'm here today giving testimony against my government for infecting me with dirty blood."

Sir Brian told her after her evidence: "It's not your fault that you gave blood that might have been contaminated so don't think that it is."

In another case the hearing heard that Cardiff teacher Christopher Thomas had mild haemophilia, although at 21 he had his left leg amputated after complications following a broken bone.

His wife Judith said that, despite this, he was energetic and "lived life to the full", enjoying water sports and becoming a sailing instructor. He also did practical work on properties the couple had bought.

He was treated by prof Bloom and later by a consultant in Bangor, Gwynedd, when the couple moved to live on the Llŷn Peninsula.

In 1983, he took early retirement because he was suffering from bleeds into his ankle. A year later he took a HIV test and was told he was positive, which left him distraught.

She said: "Of course, we were devastated and we got advice on how to cope with the condition. I thought he was going to die, I was going to die - and the kids."

Mrs Thomas, a physiotherapist, was then tested and was negative.

There is no note recording Christopher's first positive test or his diagnosis in his medical records, which the family solicitor obtained.

In 1987, he began HIV treatment but was starting to get symptoms, had lost some weight and was tired. Christopher's condition then deteriorated from 1988 onwards. He needed a wheelchair and gave up sailing and driving. He died in September 1990, aged 46.

Mrs Thomas added: "He's missed out on my fantastic grandchildren - I've got five. It's 30 years ago but it still hits home when you talk about it.

"I want to know some answers, when prof Bloom, the Department of Health and government ministers and pharmaceutical companies, knew about blood risks, if they took immediate action and if they didn't, why they didn't."

At the end of her evidence, Ms Thomas said she wanted to help "prevent this harrowing tragedy from being allowed to happen again.”

She added: "We'll never really know how different all of our lives would be if our loved one had not been infected with contaminated blood."

 

 

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.