Today marked the final day the Inquiry would sit in Belfast for the oral evidence hearings.
The first witness to give evidence today was Sharon Lowry. Sharon’s late husband Richard was a mild haemophiliac who later developed hepatitis C after receiving contaminated blood products.
Sharon told the Inquiry when her husband was informed of his infection in 1991 medical professionals gave him only 20 years to live. Sharon explained that her husband was a hard working and very well liked man who became a deputy head teacher. Even though he was well liked Richard did not feel as though he could tell anyone at his work place about his infection through stress of his job being at risk.
Sharon described her husband’s condition deteriorating in 2009 when he was placed on a liver transplant waiting list. Sharon explained how she kept suitcases full of clothes in her car due to the uncertainty they faced over whether they would need to go to London in order to see if there was a liver suitable for her husband. Devastatingly, Richard passed away in November 2011 of chronic renal failure.
In the final part of her evidence to the Inquiry Sharon described how due to his ill-health her husband had missed their sons graduations and how she simply missed holding his hand. Sharon said she felt as though they had been “robbed of a life together”.
The second witness to provide oral evidence on the final day of the hearings in Belfast was Mark Donnelly.
Mark’s father contracted HIV through contaminated Factor VIII. Mark told the Inquiry how his father had initially been tested for HIV in 1983 but this test had come back negative. When he was tested again in 1985 the results came back that he was HIV positive.
In his evidence, Mark described that when he was 9 years old his family decided to move from a housing estate to a quiet cottage in the countryside. At the time Mark did not understand why the family was moving.
During his evidence Mark described that himself and his two brothers did not find out about their father’s illness until they were in their late teenage years.
Mark explained that it was only during an argument with his mother that he discovered his father had passed away from HIV. Mark stated that his mother felt an incredible amount of guilt following his death which caused her to become dependent on alcohol.
Mark stated that his father had been “murdered by lethal injection of contaminated blood products”.
The final witness to give evidence to the Inquiry in Belfast was Caroline Carberry.
Caroline is the wife of Brian Carberry. Brian is a haemophiliac who contracted hepatitis C through contaminated blood. Caroline told the Inquiry how Brian’s health deteriorated in May 2012 when he was diagnosed with TB. Following Brian’s diagnosis both she and her son also contracted TB.
In her evidence Caroline described Brian’s continued ill-health following his TB diagnosis. He was later diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and went onto to receive chemotherapy for this. In November of last year Brian’s ill-health continued and he was admitted with pneumonia and his lung collapsed multiple times. Caroline stated that the Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma came back earlier this year.
Caroline described how she had worked up until December 2018 but felt as though she was no longer able to work and be there for her husband.
In her final words to the Inquiry Caroline described that her life had been “hell” and would be hell for the foreseeable future. She hoped that her husband Brian would survive to see the outcome of the Inquiry.