Emotional testing plea from contaminated blood scandal victim
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019
A woman who contracted hepatitis C after receiving contaminated blood during a transfusion believes there may be "thousands" of other undetected victims of the scandal.
Michelle Tolley, from Sparham, did not learn of her diagnosis until 2015, having received two blood transfusions in the past - once in 1987 and once in 1991.
To this day she is uncertain which transfusion let to the infection - if not both - but has become a tireless campaigner around the scandal, which she describes as "the biggest crisis in NHS history".
And in a week where she will is continuing to provide evidence to the public inquiry into the scandal, which saw thousands of people giving blood and blood products infected with conditions including HIV, she is urging others to seek out blood tests.
She said: "The bloods were not screened until September 1991, so really anybody that received a blood transfusion before this date could be affected.
"For me, I'm sure there must still be thousands of people out there who just do not know they have hepatitis, so I would urge anybody who knows they had a blood transfusion in 1991 or earlier to get themselves a blood test."
The grandmother-of-four is playing an important role in the public inquiry into the scandal and says she has "full faith" in the process.
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But she said if more victims could be found it would strengthen the evidence base the inquiry is based on, adding that there is no real way of knowing just how many people were affected.
She added: "I am so passionate about trying to help people that are affected by the scandal and want to try and stop as many people as possible from having to go through what I have.
"I would urge anybody to come forward and try and help with the inquiry.
"People just don't really understand what we have been through and what we still go to, so the more evidence we can bring to the inquiry the better."
She has also set up a Facebook group for anybody affected by the scandal to seek support, which is called Contaminated Whole Blood UK.
Who can get involved in the inquiry?
The inquiry is seeking people who received blood transfusions infected with either hepatitis C or other viruses to share their experiences.
Sir Brian Langstaff, chairman of the inquiry, said: "Making a written statement to the inquiry, knowing that it will be published, is never likely to be easy.
"It may be emotional, bring back troubling memories, cause anger that life turned out in a way it should not have done, or worry those who have spent a lifetime hiding illness.
"Having the courage to do this deserves recognition."
People can register their participation at infectedbloodinquiry.org.uk
Participants will then be interviewed by the inquiry's investigation team, which can be done anonymously or through a surrogate.