Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Painfully ill... but Colin has to get even worse before getting better

Man who contracted Hepatitis C from blood transfusion 'not sick enough' for a transplant

AN Ulster man, who contracted a life-threatening disease from a dirty blood transfusion, told last night of his bizarre health dilemma - he must get worse to get better.

Colin Kirkpatrick's only hope of long-term survival is a liver transplant.

But even though he has chronic Heptatitis C, end-stage cirrhosis of the liver, chest pains, aching muscles and constant tiredness, he is not deemed ill enough to get the op.

Yet having the illness, which he tragically contracted from infected blood products used, ironically, to save his life, means he lives every day like he is "sitting on death row".

"You have to be pretty ill to get on the transplant list - there are certain markers and criteria you must meet," he said.

"It's incredible that you have to hope to get worse so that you can get better.

"A liver transplant could give you up to another 30 years of life.

"One way around this is for more transplant donors. There simply aren't enough livers to go around," said Colin.

"So I would appeal for more families to consider organ donation. If there were more livers available, the powers-that-be surely would have to change the criteria."

Mr Kirkpatrick (51) had a blood transfusion in 1979 after he bled badly during a bowel biopsy.

But it wasn't until 20 years later - in 2001 - that he discovered a lack of energy and jaundice were as a result of contracting Hepatitis C.

Because symptoms rarely surface at the time of infection, Hep C is sometimes called the "hidden epidemic".

Mr Kirkpatrick said: "I was given seven or eight units of blood. I thought I was going to die. When the doctor told me I had Hepatitis C, I did not know what it was.

"He said you could only get it through injecting drugs and sharing needles or transmitted through blood transfusions before blood screening in 1991.

"This was the only time I had a blood transfusion and I was not a drug user.

"The doctor gave me the worst-case scenario - cirrhosis of liver, leading to inevitable death.

"The emergency transfusion saved my life but in the long term condemned me to living with a death sentence every day."

Two years ago, the then health minister, Angela Smith, announced that Ulster patients infected with Hepatitis C through blood transfusions could make compensation claims of up to £45,000.

At the time she said around 50 people had been affected in the province.

From June 2004 they could register with the Skipton Fund, the body set up to manage ex-gratia payments to people infected by NHS blood or blood products.

Eligibility was defined as having received blood, blood products or tissue from the NHS before September 1991 when screening became available.

Mr Kirkpatrick, who was one of the 50 to receive compensation, said he held no grudges.

"You do ask 'why me?'" he said.

"But lots of people could ask the same question.

"I cannot feel resentment.

"I am full of praise for all the staff who have looked after me in Ward 6D at the Royal Hospital and the Royal Victoria Hospital Liver Support Group. I have to pay tribute to them - they have been wonderful."

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