The daughter of a contaminated blood victim devastated she would not live to see those responsible held accountable has spoken of their fight for justice.

Susan Wakeling was infected with Hepatitis C after a blood transfusion at Ipswich Hospital following the birth of her first daughter in 1972.

East Anglian Daily Times:

On Tuesday, the House of Lords voted on an amendment to ensure those impacted by HIV and Hepatitis-C infected blood products receive compensation consistent with recommendations made by Sir Brian Langstaff, chair of the Infected Blood Inquiry.

The inquiry’s final report is due to be published in May.

Mrs Wakeling’s daughter, Debbie Kemp, said her mum fought courageously and the blood community deserves better.

She said: “My mum was so brave. She wanted to look after us all like a fierce lioness. But she was going through her own silent battle.

“There are still people in Parliament voting on whether to give people tax cuts, over giving people in the blood community what they are owed. People have lost everything – their livelihoods, their lives – and politicians keep stringing it out for decades. It’s the pain of being made to wait. People are becoming more and more ill from the stress of waiting.”

Mrs Wakeling went undiagnosed until a routine blood donation in 2000 was identified as being positive for hepatitis C.

This was linked back to her blood transfusion 28-years earlier, using blood imported from the United States which had not been fully screened.

Mrs Kemp said: “Mum said she felt tired a lot when we were younger. She was struggling to get through each day. But we just thought she had a busy life and young children. Now it makes sense.”

Mrs Wakeling was well-loved in the Bramford community: she volunteered at the primary school, was in the Women’s Institute, and was football club secretary for 40 years.

East Anglian Daily Times:

But she was advised by doctors to keep her hepatitis diagnosis private, warned that people could shun her.

The hepatitis progressively became more aggressive and caused damage to her liver, with multiple biopsies leaving the grandmother in more pain.

“She couldn’t pick up her grandchildren,” her daughter said. “She couldn’t do the activities she loved like walking and Lyme dancing.

“The GP said all the symptoms she was experiencing – the severe pain, the tiredness – were in her head and weren’t related to the infected blood. She had to fight to even get recognised.”

At multiple appointments, Mrs Wakeling was lectured about not sharing needles.

She underwent six months of interferon treatment in 2014 to try and wipe out the hepatitis.

But after a few years, she began to suffer from a horrible cough, loss of strength and IBS symptoms, which were later found to be caused by cancer of the small bowel.

For months, her symptoms were dismissed and doctors missed the cancer.

Mrs Kemp said: “We had to beg for people to see her. It was like silent screaming. Eventually after six months they did a blood test and rang her at 11pm at night and rushed her to hospital because she was badly anaemic. But they missed the chance to do a colonoscopy and endoscopy.

“We watched her getting really poorly. In 2022, she ended up being rushed into hospital again being sick. It turns out she had a lump of cancer in her small bowel that had blocked her whole system.

“How could this be? How could she be that poorly and nobody had picked it up?”

Despite intensive chemo, Mrs Wakeling passed away in October 2023 at the age of 73.

East Anglian Daily Times:

But Debbie is continuing the fight for justice for her mum.

“When the inquiry report was delayed again last year, my mum knew she didn’t have much time left and she was devastated she would not see people be held accountable for the infected blood scandal,” she said.

“Now it’s all starting to settle in our minds how much has been taken from her and us over the years. It was completely preventable. People allowed this to happen and put measures in place for this blood to come over and be distributed.

“What we want from the enquiry is for it to be acknowledged that the blood scandal was entirely preventable. We know that the government has accepted the moral case for compensation but we think it could go as far as a criminal case. We want the enquiry to expose who was responsible and for compensation to be paid out without delay.”

It has been reported that some hospitals were incentivised to buy imported US blood products, which were known to be at high risk of being contaminated.

And the government has been accused of delaying payouts to blood scandal victims to allow for tax cuts leading up to the next general election, leaving the blood community furious.

For Debbie, the loss of her mum has left a gaping hole in her life and it will take time for her family to come to terms with that loss.

She said: “My dad and my mum were like two halves that made a whole. They had such a lovely life together and we’re a really close family.

“My mum was like a second mum to my three children – it’s a devastating loss.”