Industrial Disease Experts Help 76-Year-Old’s Family In Battle For Justice

Daughter Of Hospital Technician Who Died From Mesothelioma Appeals For His Ex Colleagues To Help Investigation

19.06.2013

By Suzanne Rutter

The devastated daughter of a former hospital technician and youth club worker who died from the asbestos-related illness mesothelioma has joined forces with specialist industrial disease lawyers to appeal for his former colleagues to help an investigation.

Donald Scott Henderson, of Ashington in Northumberland, believed he was exposed to asbestos while working in the pathology laboratory at Newcastle General Hospital between 1953 and 1957 and again in 1959. He also believed he was exposed to the deadly dust while working at the Coquetdale Outdoor Pursuits training, holiday and conference centre, owned by the Northumberland Association of Youth Clubs.

Following his death aged 76 in January, Donald’s daughter Kay Henderson is carrying on his battle for justice alongside expert industrial disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, instructed by her father before the debilitating illness took hold. Kay is appealing for her dad’s ex colleagues to come forward with information about the working conditions he endured and why more wasn’t done to protect him from the dangers of asbestos.

Isobel Lovett, from Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office, said: “Asbestos-related diseases are the biggest occupational killer of all time and it can take decades for victims like Donald to develop terrible symptoms which can really impact on their quality of life.

“Donald’s family are heartbroken at losing him to such a terrible illness simply because he went to work every day almost 60 years ago. It’s important that we speak to Donald’s ex colleagues who may be able to shed light on the working conditions he endured at Newcastle General Hospital and while employed by the Northumberland Association of Youth Clubs so that we can help his family get the justice they deserve in his memory.”

Donald worked at Newcastle General Hospital, initially as a trainee technician in the haematology and biochemistry divisions of the department of pathology from 1953 to 1957. After being called up to serve in the RAF he then returned to the hospital in 1959 for a further six months.

Before his death he told his family he regularly worked with Bunsen burner mats, which were often frayed and damaged due to wear and tear.

After his first six months he moved into a new hospital building working in the histological laboratory, where he was responsible for preparing tissue and cell samples taken during biopsies. He also recalled being exposed to asbestos when he made plastic display boxes for specimens to be stored in. The process involved using Bunsen burners to mould plastic into shape and asbestos-coated tiles were needed to protect the worktops.

Donald also believed he was exposed to asbestos while working for the Northumberland Association of Youth Clubs between 1973/74 and 1976, where he was a warden at the outdoor pursuits centre at Whitton Farm in Rothbury. His role involved checking the centre’s asbestos-lagged boiler on a regular basis.

Donald first started to suffer from chest pains in June 2012 and had fluid drained from his lungs. In October 2012, he was formally diagnosed with mesothelioma and he died in January 2013.

His daughter Kay, of Ashington in Northumberland, said: “The disease had such a terrible impact on my dad’s health. He suffered from terrible bouts of pain between his shoulders, which meant he couldn’t sleep properly, his appetite was non-existent and he felt constantly tired and dizzy.

“He used to love fly fishing and volunteered for different charities – he always seemed so strong so it was awful to see him deteriorate so quickly. I hope his ex colleagues from the hospital and his friends at the youth club he worked with can help me get dad the justice he deserves by coming forward with information about his exposure to asbestos.”

Anyone with information about the working conditions at Newcastle General Hospital between 1953 and 1957 and again in 1959 or the Coquetdale Outdoor Pursuits Centre between 1973/74 and 1976 should contact Isobel Lovett of Irwin Mitchell on 0191 2790104 or email Isobel.lovett@irwinmitchell.com.

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