A Sunderland mum whose life has been overshadowed by ill health caused by contaminated blood has spoken of her fight for justice.
Sheila Thubron was pregnant with her fourth and youngest child Jack in 1989 when she was given a transfusion after she became unwell due to anaemia.
But after she gave birth to her son, she began to suffer from depression, which led her to attempt to take her own life twice and left her virtually housebound due to anxiety.
She was forced to give up the job she loved as a health assistant as she struggled to give her best and says she could not be the mother she wanted to be to Jack, now 28, Joanne, 42, David, 40, and Kathryn, 35.
Sheila, who was brought up on the Ford Estate and now lives in Springwell Village, finally got an explanation for her illness a decade ago when she was told by the NHS she had been infected with hepatitis C via the transfusion.
While her diagnosis brought her relief and an understanding of her depression - it is one of several symptoms alongside tiredness, a feeling of sickness, abdominal pains and aching joints - she continued to live with it and take antidepressants for another decade.
People are still dying and will die.Sheila Thubron
She was finally able to undergo a course of treatment last October, which has cleared her of the virus.
Now she is working alongside others also infected as they push the Government for an inquiry into the use of blood infected with products infected with hepatitis C and HIV in the 1970s and 1980s.
Blood donations only began to be screened in 1991 - four years after Government documents acknowledged the UK should use its own supply from donors.
At least 2,400 people are thought to have died due to the contaminated blood they were given and there are around 500 victims still alive.
The Thubron family also faced the upset of each being tested to ensure Sheila had not passed the infection onto them, with everyone subsequently being given the all clear.
Sheila, who is married to Derek, 67, said: “I didn’t know what on earth was wrong, I felt as if I was going mad.
“We had three children, then Jack, and it was really hard for them because they saw me at my worst.
“Sometimes it was a black hole I couldn’t get out of and they didn’t get the childhood they deserved.”
She was told the news the blood she had been given was tainted when she was called in to speak to a consultant, who told her she had been given a donation from a local woman who had the virus.
However, Sheila believes she could have been treated using a product sourced from America, where inmates in jails sold their blood.
She added: “My children didn’t have the mother they should have and Derek the wife he married, because I had to give up my job, the job that I loved, and financially it was stressful.
“There was a lot of pressure on Derek because he was helping to bring up four children on one wage.
“But I do consider myself to be fortunate and lucky that it was Hep C and not HIV and then AIDS because many people, many who were haemophilics, faced that.
“People are still dying and will die.
“I’m really angry and we want justice and to see somebody sat in the dock.”
She and others are pushing for a panel to be put together as part of an inquiry, which was backed by six party leaders in the House of Commons in July this year.
Frustration has been vented by the victims, their families and representatives from Labour, Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, over a lack of a review.
Prime Minister Theresa May responded to the call by saying any new evidence would be looked at.
Sheila, who worked at the Marie Curie Hospice in Newcastle, has gained strength thanks to her dedicated husband and children, as well as the online community she has joined via the Tainted Blood Facebook page and its website as they call for action.
She added: “We talk to each other and there are so many people going through the same thing.
“The support has been phenomenal.
“They are like another family.
“But there are so many people who don’t have computers and there are also people out there who might not even know they are victims.
“I want to find anyone else in this area who is going through it too and I want to raise awareness and understanding of what has happened.”
A Department of Health spokesman said it had increased the amount of money to victims to “record levels” since 2016.
“We recognise the importance of full transparency, which is why we have published all the information we hold on blood safety from the relevant period, between 1970 to 1995.
“We will carefully consider any new or emerging evidence before deciding on next steps.”
MP BACKING SHEILA’S FIGHT
Sheila’s fight has been backed by her MP Sharon Hodgson, who is the Labour member for Washington and Sunderland West.
She has been pushing for answers in the House of Commons as the Thubron’s representative in Parliament, as well as for others in her role as Shadow Minister for Public Health.
Mrs Hodgson said: “The contaminated blood scandal is one I am all too aware of in my role as shadow minister, and have spent a lot of my time in this role campaigning for the Government to provide justice for the many thousands of people affected by this tragedy.
“This has included lending my voice to the calls for a public inquiry into the scandal, including my successful lobbying – alongside other Labour MPs – for Labour’s 2017 manifesto to include a commitment to hold an inquiry if we got into office.
“This whole issue was brought closer to home when Sheila reached out to me and told me her experiences of what happened to her.
“It is great that Sheila is wanting to use this experience, as awful as it is, to raise awareness of this issue and the need for justice, alongside highlighting the support that is available for people to access to compensate for the horrific life experiences they have had to endure, all because of the failures to protect people from what can only be described as gross incompetency.
“Working closely with Sheila, and the many others across the country who have been affected by this scandal, is of utmost importance to me, so that we can ensure justice is achieved and the right level of support is provided, whilst understanding that nothing can undo what these families have had to suffer for so many years.
“Lessons must be learnt from these failures so that we never see something like this happen again.”
Sheila added: “Sharon has been fantastic.
“She’s really listened to be and become a good friend as she’s worked to help us.”
Sheila has asked any others affected by the issue to make contact by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to pass on their details.