'˜Tragic Charlie fought so hard for justice'

Victims and families affected by the contaminated blood scandal which left thousands of NHS patients with HIV and hepatitis C are pushing for an urgent public inquiry before even more people die.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 2nd March 2018, 12:12 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd March 2018, 1:20 pm
The couple on their wedding day
The couple on their wedding day

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'Tainted blood has ruined my life'

“There’s a new treatment for haemophilia and it will change your life forever.”

Charlie with his children and as a young boy

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Rose, 71, said: “They meant the treatment would change his life for the better. It did end up changing his life - but for the worse and ultimately killed him.”

Charlie was infected with HIV and hepatitis C from the tainted blood and died at the age of 43 in 2009. He left behind wife Tracey, daughter Shannon, son Bradley and parents Rose and Martin Campbell Loder.

His family vowed to fight for justice on Charlie’s behalf and welcomed news a public inquiry would finally take place.

Charlie with his children and as a young boy

Tragically, Charlie’s mum Rose died just weeks after giving this interview after suddenly being diagnosed with cancer that had spread throughout her body. Her poignant last words about the family’s ordeal and Charlie’s courage have inspired her loved ones to keep fighting.

Charlie’s own final words about the predicament faced by victims of the blood scandal before his death were: “What they’re hoping for is that we will all get picked off one by one and eventually there will be no one left to answer to.”

Speaking before her death, Rose revealed how Charlie was diagnosed with haemophilia when he was eight-months-old. Haemophilia is an inherited blood disorder. Haemophiliacs suffer recurrent bleeding because of the lack of a clotting factor.

Rose, who lived in Bispham with husband Martin, said: “I was an orphan and grew up looked after by foster parents and in convent schools. I didn’t know anything about my parents so didn’t know I was a carrier of haemophilia.”

Charlie with his children and as a young boy

Charlie’s condition only came to light at eight-months after he rolled off the bed and his knee swelled up. Rose took him to hospital and doctors questioned her about bruises on Charlie.

She said: “They thought I was abusing him. It made me feel terrible and I went home sobbing thinking I was going to lose him.”

Medics operated on Charlie and it was only when he wouldn’t stop bleeding that they realised he had haemophilia. Rose said: “We nearly lost Charlie. He lost a lot of blood and needed blood transfusions.”

As a child, whenever Charlie hurt himself or bled, he was admitted to hospital for treatment and would be in for a week or a fortnight at a time. Rose remembered: “Charlie wanted to do everything and be a normal boy and have a bike and play football. So inevitably, he would hurt himself.”

Charlie with his children and as a young boy

When Charlie was around 12, he began the Facctor VIII treatment that he could administer himself to help blood clot. Rose said: “Factor VIII did make Charlie’s life a lot easier. It was a wonderful invention. It was the way it was produced that was its downfall.”

Thousands of haemophiliacs and other patients were left with devastating health issues after they were given infected blood during the 1970s and 1980s while undergoing medical treatment. The scandal has already claimed the lives of 2,400 people. Affected families have been fighting for truth and justice.

The UK imported blood products from the US which were manufactured from blood plasma from thousands of paid donors including high risk people such as prisoners and drug addicts.

Rose said: “Factor VIII gave Charlie his life back and made things easier for him and everybody else. But little did we know at the time it was a poisoned chalice.”

Charlie met wife Tracey in 1984 when he was 19 and she was 16. Tracey, who lives in Blackpool and works in Lancaster as a podiatrist, recalls: “As soon as we met, Charlie told me about being a haemophiliac.

“But at that point, it was just haemophilia which was under control. He just had treatment when he needed it.”

In July 1985, the young couple were stunned when Charlie was given the shocking news he had HIV at a hospital check-up. Tracey remembers: “A doctor bluntly said: ‘You have HIV and there is no cure’ and basically told Charlie he was going to die.

“It was devastating and the stigma about Aids was all coming out.”

In 1991, Charlie and Tracey began living together. As Charlie was HIV positive, he couldn’t get life insurance so Tracey had to get the house in her name. In 1993, Charlie was told he also had hepatitis C.

The couple married in 1993 and their daughter Shannon was an accident. Tracey had to have an HIV test. She says: “I was apprehensive as I knew if I was HIV positive, I would have to have an abortion.

“Charlie was absolutely thrilled when the tests came back showing I was clear. We were both over the moon at becoming parents.” The couple had son Bradley in 1999 but this time he was conceived through fertility treatment to minimise the risk.

For years, Charlie’s health was stable. However, in September 2008, he suddenly deteriorated. Tracey says: “Charlie’s CD4 count dropped and they put him on a combination treatment but he had an awful allergic reaction.

“They changed his treatment and that affected his liver. By the Christmas, he was on the organ transplant list and was told without a new liver, he only had months.”

In 2009, Charlie became very ill and was transferred to Leeds. Doctors told a heartbroken Tracey that Charlie was dying and she called Rose up in tears. Rose said: “We got there at 12.30am and Charlie died at 5.45am.”

Tracey says: “I think deep down he knew he was dying as he would not let me leave his sight or let go of my hand.”

Charlie’s children Shannon and Bradley were devastated. As well as losing her husband, Tracey was left with a mortgage and two young children. She says: “If it was not for the fact I was working, I would have lost my home as well as my husband.”

Rose was heartbroken at losing her only child and Martin was also deeply affected by Charlie’s death. He used to be a devout Catholic but after Charlie’s death, became an atheist as he felt there couldn’t be a God.

Martin says: “The treatment that was meant to save Charlie’s life killed him. Charlie was so optimistic and always said: ‘when I get my new liver ...’. We believed him and prayed it would happen.”

Charlie was a prominent campaigner with the TaintedBlood group for infected haemophiliacs. Tracey says: “Charlie fought hard to get justice. He wasn’t bothered about himself. He was campaigning to make sure his family would be looked after.

“We want justice, a payout for families and for the Government to admit what happened.”