People often say that lightning never strikes twice, but Liz Hooper has suffered the torment of losing two husbands to contaminated blood products given to them by the NHS as a lifesaving treatment.
To compound Liz’s grief, she is now losing her house, as financial difficulties since the death of her husband Paul means she is being forced to sell the cottage they bought as their “forever home.”
HuffPost UK this week revealed how 90 people infected by contaminated blood given to them by the NHS in the 1970s and 1980s had died since last July, when the prime minister announced an inquiry would be held into the scandal.
One of those tragedies was that of Paul Hooper, who died on December 1. He was a haemophiliac who had been infected with both HIV and Hepatitis C as a result of contaminated blood products.
It was the second such tragedy to befall Liz, as her first husband Jeremy – who she was married to for 23 years – was also a haemophiliac affected by the scandal. The couple had a son together, Lewis, who is now 25.
The Factor VIII treatment used to treat Jeremy’s haemophilia infected him with Hepatitis C – something he didn’t discover until years later.
Jeremy’s disease ultimately led to liver failure and liver cancer. He died in December 2008, at the age of 43, when Lewis was just 15.
Liz never imagined she’d find happiness again – until she met Paul, who was a friend of a friend. Coincidentally, Paul told Liz he was a haemophiliac and told her he had been left with both HIV and hepatitis C due to contaminated blood.
Paul’s health deteriorated over the years and he died at the age of 53, after almost seven years of marriage to Liz. Hepatitis C was listed as one of the causes on his death certificate.
Liz, 53, who lives in Kineton in Warwickshire, told HuffPost: “I have gone through the heartache and trauma of losing two men I loved – and now I am losing my home.
“Everything is a knock-on effect of the contaminated blood. All that I have been through and am going through all goes back to that.”
Liz said she was robbed of the chance of grieving for Paul properly, as she was forced to put their home on the market because she knew she could not afford to pay the mortgage alone.
“Being able to sit down, cry and grieve Paul properly has been taken away from me,” she added.
“Within a month of Paul passing away, I was having to sort out Paul’s things and send them to charity shops.
“When Paul died, all his finances died with him and as a result, I cannot pay the mortgage.
“It took me until April to get the top-up payment for widows. And there is no longer what Paul brought in with his benefits and the government scheme.
“I knew I could not do it on my own as after paying the mortgage, I would still have credit cards, council tax, electricity and food to pay for.”
Liz and Paul bought their two-bedroom cottage seven years ago. It is a former stable built in 1750 and they renovated it, turning it into their dream house.
Liz admits it is “soul destroying” and “gutting” to sell the home she loves and shared with Paul.
“Paul and I loved this place and it was supposed to be our forever home. Paul designed the kitchen and bought vintage tiles and he designed the bathroom based around the bathroom on our honeymoon in Cyprus, which we both loved,” she said.
“There are so many personal touches and I desperately don’t want to leave. But I have no choice.
“I am having to downsize. My finances are such that when I sell the cottage, once the mortgage is paid off, I will have to buy a property I can afford.
“So I will be going from a 1750s cottage with beams, history and a range in the kitchen to a flat or a maisonette, as that is all I will be able to afford.
“I have lost my husband and now I am losing my home.”
Liz said had Paul not been given contaminated blood products, her life would be very different. A public inquiry into the scandal, which claimed thousands of lives, is underway.
The grieving mum says she has had to sell things simply to survive and has had to rely on her elderly mother and her son for handouts.
“Instead of grieving, my life is one of stress about how to pay for things,” she said.
“I am constantly asking myself ‘how am I going to buy food for myself?’ and ‘how can I afford to put petrol in my car?’.
“I am a carer for my 86-year-old mum, who is disabled and she has been paying for the petrol in my car because I just did not have the money.
“My son Lewis has been buying a bag of food for me and coming round with it so he knows I can feed myself. He should not be having to do that or worry about me. It’s just not fair.
“Lewis has been without his own father since the age of 15 and he also lost his home.
“When Jeremy died, we were living in a big detached home. I was working part-time and could not afford the mortgage, so we sold that and bought a smaller place.
“Now Lewis is having to see me lose my home. We have been through it all twice because of contaminated blood.”
While Liz welcomes the fact a full inquiry into the scandal has finally started, she says her own personal aim is not about money.
They were basically using these men and people as lab rats. How dare they make these decisions?
“I don’t really want their blood money and for me personally, this is not about compensation.” she added.
“No amount of money can ever compensate me for what I have lost. What I want is for them to stand up and acknowledge that they have screwed up.
“People have blood treatment and blood transfusions on the NHS in good faith. They don’t expect to be left with a death sentence.
“Jeremy had Hepatitis C for 10 years before they told him. I was pregnant and they did not tell us he had the virus.”
Liz says her mental health suffered after losing her first husband and both she and her son had to take anti-depressants.
“I want the truth, accountability and those making the decisions to explain why this happened,” she told HuffPost.
“It was wrong and despicable and they were playing God with people’s lives. They were basically using these men and people as lab rats. How dare they make these decisions.
“I want to know the reasons. Why is my son without his father? Why have I lost two men I loved? Why am I now losing my home?
“It is the ripple effect and it all goes back to contaminated blood. It has caused so much heartache for so many people and broken so many of us.”
She added: “The widows, children and families are often forgotten. We are not the ones who were contaminated – but we are still suffering.
“I just want truth, justice and for those at fault to admit it and tell me why.
“Paul and Jeremy will never know, so I have to be their voice. I need the answers for them.”