Grandpa’s trauma at being infected with HIV in 1980s school blood transfusion
Distraught Gary Webster said he was warned aged 17 that he had just two years to live after being treated for haemophilia with contaminated blood imported from the US. The 56-year-old told the public inquiry into the use of infected products that although he survived, he “went off the rails” and tried to commit suicide. He added: “We were told this was an unavoidable accident, we now know this to be untrue. “These scars will never heal…and will haunt us forever.”
He was applauded for his harrowing evidence at an inquiry, currently looking into how the scandal at Treloar special school in Hampshire led to the deaths of 72 former pupils. Mr Webster, one of only 30 known survivors, said: “I have guilt still being here. It’s the stigma. Losing 72 school friends, who you’ve known since you were that high.
“I’m an angry old man now, so I don’t think I’m that good at relationships, but it infects everyone, not just me.”
The father of one said he was told he had HIV by a doctor at the school’s NHS-run haemophilia centre, which gave him the transfusion.
“I was with a friend…We went into the room and he said, ‘I’ve got some bad news – you’re positive’.
“He said, ‘We don’t know a lot about it. We can’t guarantee that you’ll be alive in a couple of years’.
“That was it really. We just looked at each other. We were in shock but we probably laughed at each other.”
Taken through his statement by Sarah Fraser-Butlin, junior counsel to the inquiry, Mr Webster said he went “off the rails”. He added: “Being told you’ve only got two years to live, even though I kept a job down, I didn’t really care about things.
“Those 10 years were pretty rough. I tried to kill myself once. I stuck a car through a brick wall.
“I was out of it. I just didn’t care. It affected the whole family. They hid it well but it destroyed them.”
A statement from Treloar’s said it was “completely supportive of the campaign for truth, answers and justice by our former pupils”.
The inquiry is looking at transfusions given at the school in the 1970s and 1980s as part of the wider probe into poisoned blood transfusions.
All of the victims were given blood plasma imported from America that was contaminated with both HIV and viral hepatitis. Batches of blood infected thousands of haemophiliacs across the UK. The inquiry continues.
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