Wednesday 27 May 2015

LifeBlood by Gill Fyffe

Poisoned. Ruined. Silenced. A family story. 
In 1988 Gill Fyffe undergoes a traumatic birth, requiring a blood transfusion. Over the following years, Gill struggles to raise her family as she experiences constant and extreme fatigue, at one point falling asleep at the wheel, crashing her car. 
When her daughter is seven she receives word from the authorities her transfusion was contaminated. 
She has Hepatitis C, a virus that destroys the liver. Gill is treated with Alpha Interferon. The treatment fails because it is too late. Because of the crippling side-effects, including memory loss, photosensitivity with skin that cannot tolerate sunlight, she has to resign from her job teaching in a top private school. She cannot sue, because it is too late. 
Financially ruined, Gill uncovers years of unheeded warnings about the safety of blood donations and a shameless official cover-up.  
LifeBlood is the extraordinary, heart-breaking story of how a woman s life has been affected by one the UK's biggest medical scandals. It is also a remarkable portrait of a family under stress, and how it comes to value what really matters. As a major inquiry is due to report after many years of delays, Gill's story is a timely and explosive reminder of the human cost of placing profit before ethics and the establishment's unwillingness to compensate for its mistakes.

LifeBlood by Gill Fyffe was published in paperback and ebook by Freight Books on 23 March 2015.

Despite the horror of the situation that Gill Fyffe has found herself in the middle of, despite the injustice and the downright lies that she has suffered from, I found myself captivated by this book.

Yes, I wanted to shout and scream on her behalf. I dearly wanted her to be able to expose the terrible cover-ups that went on at Government level, I wanted her and her family to be compensated for the years of hardship they had endured. I wanted her to be angry and fierce, and she is. She's very very angry, and determined and absolutely fearless about dealing with the establishment.

I remember the 80s, when stories of AIDS and HIV dominated the media. The rumours, the misinformation, the total nonsense that we believed. Gill Fyffe gave birth to her daughter in 1988, slap bang in the middle of all of this. The birth was not easy, Gill lost a great deal of blood and needed a transfusion. Despite her protests, her worries about infection, her belief in the AIDS story, she was persuaded by the medics that it was safe.

That day was not only the first day of her daughter's life, it was also the day that would change Gill and her husband for ever. Gill never really felt well again after her daughter was born, and it was seven years later that she learnt that yes, she was infected, but she was not HIV positive. Gill had Hepatitis C and it was going to destroy her liver, it was incurable.

LifeBlood is Gill's story of her battle that has raged for years and years. Her battle to expose the official cover-up about infected blood. Gill battled them all. She lost her job, the medication that was supposed to help her only made things worse, she and her husband had no money, they sold everything, they left their home, they fought on and on.

Gill tells her story in a forthright and honest manner. She doesn't ask for sympathy, she is blunt. She despairs, she asks 'why me?', she rages at the unfairness and through it all she brings up her children and creates a loving family unit.

Gill is often very funny. I don't think we are supposed to find a woman who cannot tolerate any light, who has to smother her face in thick emollient cream and cover her head funny at all, but Gill's writing does evoke laughter.

Gill is not the only person to have been treated in this way. Thousands of people were involved, many died.

LifeBlood is a fascinating insight into how difficult it can be to fight against the establishment. How the ordinary person can be reduced to just a number. It is also a story of humanity and bravery and hope and determination. Written straight from the heart, with passion.

My thanks to the publisher, Freight Books, who sent my copy for review.

Gill Fyffe read English at the University of St Andrews and was awarded an MLitt with distinction for a verse biography of Rose de Beauharnais, the empress Josephine. 

Gill's life has been affected by the consequences of a contaminated blood transfusion. 

She taught at the University of St Andrews and Fettes College, Edinburgh, before side-effects forced her to resign. 

She is immensely proud of her son and daughter who, educated at Fettes College, went on to study at Imperial and RADA, Oxford and LARA. 

Gill now lives in Soho.

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