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Infected blood victim tells of impact of living with hepatitis C


Martin Sloan

Martin Sloan

Martin Sloan

A 45-year-old Co Down man has told how his marriage broke down due to the strain of living with hepatitis C which he contracted from infected blood.

Martin Sloan, who has haemophilia, said he was virtually bedbound for two years and is still living with the consequences of the aggressive hepatitis C treatment he received.

His brother and grandfather, both haemophiliacs, also developed hepatitis C after they were treated with infected blood. Mr Sloan's grandfather, James Cousins, was 63 when he died as a result of hepatitis C in 1986.

The family is one of 300 families in Northern Ireland affected by the contaminated blood scandal. More than 4,600 people with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders across the UK were infected with HIV and hepatitis viruses through the use of contaminated clotting factors (proteins in the blood that help control bleeding) in the 1970s and 1980s.

Some of these people unintentionally infected partners or family members and since then, more than 3,000 people have died and, of the 1,243 people infected with HIV, fewer than 250 are still alive.

Mr Sloan explained: "I was only told I was hepatitis C positive at 19 when I told my consultant I was getting married and she asked me to come back the following week with my fiancee. This shocked my then partner and I to the core. It called all our plans into question and plunged us into a life of hardship. I couldn't keep a job as I was so ill and there was no chance of holidays or a mortgage as I was, and still am, uninsured.

"The treatment I was given was like a cancer drug, it was so harsh, and I spent the majority of two years in bed. The pressure finally broke up my marriage. It has led to serious damage to many of my joints and I am left with symptoms ranging from exhaustion and brain fog to extreme joint pain, vomiting and mental health problems, to mention a few."

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Mr Sloan was speaking as a public inquiry examining why men, women and children in the UK were given infected blood and infected blood products, turns its attention to Northern Ireland. The Infected Blood Inquiry, which will also look at the impact on families of patients who received infected blood and the government response, is due to hear expert evidence relating to the Northern Ireland Haemophilia Centre throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Mr Sloan continued: "I am a lone parent with two daughters, and we struggle to maintain a normal life.

"This contaminated blood inquiry has been very difficult, but I hope we can get some justice for my grandfather who is no longer with us and for my brother and I who must live the rest of our lives with question marks on our health."

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