A former care worker who almost took her own life and the widow of a man whose HIV was kept secret from them both have told an inquiry of the devastating impact of infected blood transfusions.

The Infected Blood Inquiry in Edinburgh heard from four witnesses who have suffered as a result of receiving contaminated blood in the 1970s and 1980s – a scandal believed to have cost 2,400 lives.

One of the witnesses, Maria Armour, received contaminated blood from a Glasgow hospital after suffering a miscarriage in 1981, but was not diagnosed with hepatitis C for another 16 years despite years of tests leaving her fearing for her life.

The mother-of-two told the hearing how she woke up in hospital after being taken to the Royal Samaritan Hospital for Women by ambulance to find she was being given a blood transfusion.

Ms Armour dealt with illnesses caused by the virus, which affects the liver, and said she was made to fear having cancer or Aids because she was kept in the dark by doctors, who kept her waiting three months to be told she had tested positive for hepatitis C.

Ms Armour explained how the diagnosis came during a time when there was a lot of publicity and focus on Aids, and said: “My symptoms were the same as the end stages of Aids, with the sores appearing on the body, diarrhoea, et cetera, so that’s what I was worried about – I thought I was at the end stages of that and maybe they weren’t telling me.”

Asked how she felt to get the diagnosis, the former care worker said: “Devastated. I knew it was the end of my career.”

She added: “Jade and Laura, my daughters, were struggling, I was struggling, and within those few days I was thinking about people I could have infected through the years.”

A few days after her doctor told her the infection had come from her blood transfusion, she tried to kill herself but was found by one of her daughters, who called an ambulance.

The inquiry also heard from the widow of a man who contracted Aids from infected blood during his treatment for leukaemia, although it was only revealed to her 10 years after his death. 

It was only a chance encounter with his doctor which she believes resulted in him telling her, and sending her for tests to check she had not contracted Aids.

“It’s like the bottom falling out of your world because all I could think of was, ‘Oh, my God, what if I had given it to our girls?’,” she said.

“The fact you were betrayed and you’re shocked devalues you as a human being.” The inquiry continues.