Hope of a cure for contaminated blood victim 30 years after being infected
- Credit: SIMON FINLAY
It has been a turbulent year for Michelle Tolley trying to rid her body of a disease she was infected with during the contaminated blood scandal.
The mother of four was diagnosed with Hepatitis C after becoming increasingly concerned about her health last October.
That was after 28 years of misdiagnoses. She had been infected with the disease through a blood transfusion while giving birth in 1987.
The contaminated blood scandal saw thousands of patients given infected blood or blood products by the NHS in the 1970s and 80s. In many cases this has led to widespread infections, cirrhosis and cancer.
But now hope has been kindled as Mrs Tolley, of Sparham, near Lenwade, has been accepted onto a course of medication which could see her free of Hep C.
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For the last three months the medication has been working to cleanse her of the disease, and recent tests have revealed no change in her liver function in the last six months.
Another round of medication will begin on December 30 and she could be given the all clear by March.
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'If you think I have had it for more than half my life that is quite frightening,' said Mrs Tolley, 51. 'Because it has still not come back as being undetected at the moment the virus is taking some time to leave my system so they have put me on another 12 weeks of medication.
'That is to make sure they get rid of any fragments. If they do not clear it all, it can begin to replicate itself. It is really clever at hiding itself away. It will hide itself behind organs and unless you have a specific Hep C test you just do not know.'
Mrs Tolley wants to raise awareness of Hepatatis C and is urging anyone who may have had a tattoo or blood transfusion in the 1970s or 1980s to get checked.
'I would hate anyone to go through what I have been through this year,' she said. 'I had a debilitating disease, I lost a job I love and my mum died, all in one year. 'When people hear Hepatitis C they will usually link it with drugs or alcohol. That's not their fault, it is ignorance. If you have never come across it before you would not know. 'I have been on the treatment now for almost three months, and for me it has been an emotional rollercoaster. 'In the beginning I was planning a funeral because I was sure I was going to die. 'The chronic fatigue is ridiculous. I have been unable to get out of bed for two days straight and as someone who is usually quite busy and active it has knocked me for six. 'It would just be nice to be normal. It has been one hell of a year. The really bad thing is brain fog, and I just can't function. 'It is my grandchildren who bring me back. All I have to do is look at a picture of them and it snaps me right back.'
Since her diagnosis Mrs Tolley has been learning all she can about the scandal and how she became a victim of it, which she sums up as 'chronic negligence'. She now has cirrhosis of the liver, gastritis, oesophageal disease and calcified gall stones.
Provided she is given the all clear after finishing the medication in March, Mrs Toley, a former teaching assistant, plans to volunteer to read at her granddaughters' school in Essex.
'If I don't end up in the all clear, it won't be without a fight,' she says.