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‘I gave birth, and got Hepatitis C’

When Jackie Britton was given a blood transfusion during childbirth, it could have killed her.

When Jackie Britton was given a blood transfusion after childbirth, she thought it was saving her life. But the infected blood could have killed her. There are thought to be thousands like her. They often feel overlooked in the wider NHS contaminated blood scandal.

“There are still people dying, not knowing they are infected,” Jackie Britton, from Portsmouth, tells the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.

She gave birth in 1983.

Her baby daughter was fine but when Jackie started haemorrhaging she needed a blood transfusion.

It would be another 29 years before she realised that that blood had been contaminated with hepatitis C, for which there was no blood screening at the time.

The virus went undetected for years, slowly damaging Jackie’s liver.

As she puts it: “The four units of blood that had saved my life was killing me.”

Jackie started noticing something might be wrong only in her 50s, when she was experiencing “absolute fatigue”.

“I would feel physically sick. I would start retching just stood up trying to cook a meal, because of the effort and the energy it was taking out of me.

“Hep C is just trauma after trauma.”

A new generation of drugs means Jackie has now cleared the virus itself from her body – but the damage has already been done.

She has cirrhosis of the liver and needs checks every six month to make sure it has not led to cancer or liver disease.

‘Treatment disaster’

The contaminated blood scandal of the 1970s and 1980s is often called the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.

Almost 5,000 people with the blood disorder haemophilia were given a treatment contaminated with hepatitis and in many cases HIV.

Then there is a second group of people who like Jackie received a blood transfusion after childbirth or an operation.

There are no solid figures available on exactly how many transfusion patients were infected before 1992.

But estimates range from about 5,000 – the same number of people with haemophilia affected – to up to 28,000, the figure suggested by a Department of Health analysis of the scandal.

It is thought there will still be some people living today with hepatitis C, contracted by blood transfusion, who have not yet been diagnosed.

Read on: 'I gave birth, and got Hepatitis C'

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