Asbestos the hidden killer, my story by Barbara Eason
My husband Michael left school when he was 15 and worked hard to become an electrician.
In 1965 when he was 23 he started working at a power station in Salford, it was while he worked here he decided to become an instrument mechanic. In the process of trying to get access to the temperature detector instrumentation that he maintained, he had to "crawl over and under pipes" lagged with asbestos. In order to take the detectors back to the workshop for maintenance he'd remove the insulation which contained asbestos, but at no time was he given any warning of the dangers of this substance. Equally, he told me he wasn't provided with any protective equipment.
When we first got married in September 1966 we lived in a maisonette in Ashton under Lyme. We saved really hard for two years to buy our bungalow just up the road.
From 1966 until about 1972 Michael worked in a chemical company as an instrument maintenance technician working on instrument and control systems all around the plant. The flow meters and instruments which he maintained were set into pipework insulated with asbestos rope insulation. Also, the flow meters had asbestos gaskets contained within them. His duties involved stripping away the asbestos from the gaskets and making new replacement gaskets by cutting asbestos sheets. Again, Michael said he was never told about the dangers of working with asbestos. Although, a hard hat and glasses were provided, there were no masks. From 1972 onwards Michael worked in the offices of the chemical company as an instrument maintenance manager. He went on to another job from 1996 to 2003 during which time he didn't come in to contact with asbestos.
Michael took early retirement in October 2003 aged 61 years. We had a camper van and planned to spend time travelling around together. He was also going through all the training to become a Magistrate, something he'd wanted to do for years.
He was at home for a year before the first visited our doctor in December 2004 about the cough and breathing difficulties that he was experiencing. Listening to his chest the doctor informed him that he was "only breathing through one lung". Michael was shocked. He was sent immediately to Tame-side General Hospital for an X-ray. It took until the end of January 2005, and a number of tests before Michael was given the diagnosis of mesothelioma. We were told it was terminal! It was such a shock to tell all the family that the terminal illness was caused by being exposed to asbestos over forty years ago.
Michael's pain and suffering was horrendous. He had severe pain in his chest and around his lungs; he said it felt like a rat was gnawing at him. I washed and fed him, well I had to do everything for him. Most of the time he was so drugged up that he could not eat, he lost all his weight. He described himself as looking like someone out of Belsen concentration camp.
My Michael's end was really fast, he died on the 4th April 2005, just over three and a half months after he first felt ill. For that last month his doctor was unable to manage his pain. He was just 62 years old.
Michael and I would have celebrated our Ruby wedding anniversary in 2006, we had planned to go to Rome, but this was not to be. "I just feel so very angry you know, that his life really was taken away through sheer negligence, he died needlessly.
The one thing I urge tradesmen to do is just to stop and think, ask yourself if there is asbestos in this building. Check it out. You might think this won't happen to me but it is better to be safe now than sorry in thirty years time.