Rebecca's Story: What I want from the Infected Blood Inquiry
Rebecca Pagliaro (Nee King) describes the impact of the Contaminated Blood Scandal on her family and speaks on what she would like to see from the Infected Blood Inquiry.
My Dad died of AIDS in 1995, he was aged 38 at the time. He died three days before my 10th birthday. He left behind myself, my brother who was 5, my Mum – his beloved Wife - and a select group of family and loyal friends. He was very loved, and he is still missed every day by those of us who remember him.
We believe my Dad first tested positive for HIV mid-way through 1984. Dad was not informed of his status until Mum was heavily pregnant with me (I was born mid July 1985). The delay in informing him put myself and my mother at unnecessary risk.
There is much I could say about how life was for me growing up with a Dad who was so desperately ill. But it would be too lengthy and indeed painful for me to recount here. I will save those details for the full statement I make to the inquiry. I will say that it was often scary. My Dad lost his health, his job and career, his independence and his mind. The stigma, prejudice and ignorance about HIV meant our family was also very isolated through a time when we desperately needed people around us.
I was a child when all this happened, so I can only now, age 33 begin to imagine what my parents went through. The strength my Mother had to shelter us as best she could through my Dad’s illness and to carry on and raise us after his death, is staggering to me and the enormity of it becomes more and more apparent as I get older. My Dad suffered a harrowing illness and then a horrible and unnecessary death when he was 38, just 5 years older than I am now.
The grief that I felt when my Dad died was something I would not wish on anyone and certainly not on a child. The initial raw emotional pain was so deep that when I think of it now I can still physically feel it in my body. This grief changes, but it does not go. Each special occasion is particularly poignant. I wish desperately that my Dad could have shared these occasions with me, I wish he could have seen me graduate and get married. These occasions, even the small things like a family meal will always be tainted with sadness because he is not here to share it with us.
What I want from the Inquiry is simply the uncensored truth. I want to understand why my Dad was given contaminated blood products? I want to understand how and why the decision was made to use high-risk products? And how long those in charge of making those decisions were aware of the risk? I would like to know why my Dad was the last to know about what was happening with his own body and furthermore, why he was not given decent and dignified care when he was ill? I want to know why his life was considered of such little value that it has taken over 30 years for this matter to be investigated.
Most importantly though, what I want is for my Dad and my family to be treated as human beings, not an inconvenient and dirty secret, we deserve the truth and we have waited long enough for it.
Written by Rebecca Pagliaro (Nee King)