NHS gave me hepatitis for 34 years, says Northamptonshire man... but I can't praise them enough
A pensioner from Northampton has finally been cured of hepatitis, 34 years after an infected batch of NHS blood gave him the deadly disease.
John Dedman, aged 68, from Cogenhoe, was diagnosed with haemophilia aged just 10 years old, which required him to have the blood-clotting protein Factor VIII every time he bled.
But disaster struck aged 34 when he went for a routine vasectomy operation and was given Factor VIII from a batch donated by American prisoners which was infected with hepatitis C.
The virus changed the course of Mr Dedman’s life, causing liver scarring - which required a transplant - cancer, swelling of his brain and lung disease.
Now expensive new drugs given on compassionate grounds by pharmaceutical company AbbVie have resulted in him being given the all-clear two months ago.
He said: “You get tested for six months after the treatment ends. The first month was clear, but I still thought I’ve been here before with other drugs.
“Second month I thought ‘that’s good’. By month three I thought ‘crikey’. I started to get quite excited.
“When I was given the all-clear... well it was absolutely the best day of my life.
“I’d had it for 34 years and it was all over in six months.”
The scandal of the infected Factor VIII has been raised many times in Parliament since 1982 when Mr Dedman was diagnosed.
But remarkably, the hepatitis led him to have treatment of such high quality that he will not hear a word against the National Health Service.
He said: “I don’t see it as the NHS’s fault. It was the Government who decided to import the batches and someone must have known the risks.
“People were coming off the streets, from penitentiaries, even being paid to donate.
“No, the NHS have been fantastic to me all through this. The John Radcliffe, the Queen Elizabeth in Birmingham and NGH. I can’t fault any of them.”
It was not the NHS, however, that was able to provide the drugs that cured him, and Mr Dedman said that ought to change.
He said: “They cost £90,000 for a round of treatment. But just think how much money I have cost the NHS over the years. A transplant alone is thousands, plus all the hospital stays and consultations. The bill would be massive.
“There are people now, young men, who have hepatitis C. Better to cure them now than have them go through the trials, and the cost, that I did.”
‘Trials’ barely does Mr Dedman’s ordeal justice.
After being alerted - needlessly as it turned out - to the chance he could have HIV or mad cow disease through infected Factor VIII batches, he contracted liver cirrhosis, which led many over the years to wrongly assume he was an alcoholic.
The cirrhosis then led to liver cancer, which was eventually treated, and also encephalitis, a swelling of the brain caused by the liver being unable to rid itself of toxins.
The mounting problems forced him to retire from his job as a probation officer after he began to get so fatigued he would fall asleep at work.
After four aborted transplants, his luck finally began to turn in July 2013 when, with doctors predicting he had only weeks to live, he was finally given the complete liver he desperately needed.
During his recuperation, he wrote a letter to the family of his donor - who was lying in a hospital bed on a life support machine - saying how he would now be able to see his grandchildren grow up.
It was the beginning of a wider upturn in Mr Dedman’s fortunes.
Not only did he have healthy new liver free of scarring and cancer, the new organ had also cured the haemophilia Mr Dedman had had since he was a boy.
He said: “The new liver’s white blood cells meant I no longer had to worry about Factor VIII. Ironically, my blood is now so thick I have to take warfarin to thin it again.”
Now he has put 34 years of ill health behind him and does not seem to bear any grudges.
“Despite it all,” he says, “I’m aged 68 but I’m the healthiest I’ve been in decades.”