Beighton Woman’s Story Reveals Devastating Reality Of Asbestos Exposure
The daughter of a woman from Sheffield who died as a result of asbestos exposure has joined legal experts to mark the 20th anniversary of the ban on asbestos in November, by speaking about the impact on her family and to warn others of the danger still posed by this silent killer.
Mary Lill, 68, from Beighton died on 27 June 2016, just over a year after a diagnosis on 8 January 2015 of mesothelioma – a cancer of the lining of the lungs associated with asbestos exposure.
Working with the asbestos related diseases team at Irwin Mitchell, daughter Vicky Russon never imagined that one day, one of the victims supported by the team would be her own mum.
Mary instructed Irwin Mitchell’s specialist asbestos related claims team to investigate how she may have come into contact with asbestos, and the claim was quickly and successfully concluded during her lifetime.
Mary believed she was exposed to asbestos working on the production line for a company known as ‘Rothervale’ in 1973-4. The Woodhouse Mill factory on Retford Road specialised in fire door manufacture, using timber, plywood, glue and asbestos sheeting to give fire protection. Once part of John Carr Doors and Rugby Joinery, the company is currently owned by Jeld-Wen.
Mary had to handle asbestos sheets on a daily basis and described clouds of asbestos dust as being visible in the air. She said no special precautions were taken and asbestos was treated the same as timber or plywood.
Mary began to develop the symptoms of mesothelioma in October 2014. Breathlessness and a pain in her left side led her to return home early from a family holiday. Initially prescribed antibiotics for a chest infection, by 31 December, Mary was in hospital having three litres of fluid drained from her lungs and doctors asked for the first time if she had ever worked with asbestos.
Vicky recalled the terrible moment on 8 January 2015 when she and her brother accompanied her mum to hospital for the results of a biopsy on the fluid: “We sat in a room with the doctor and he told us it was not the result they hoped for. He said it was bad news. He said it was mesothelioma.
He explained it was a type of cancer caused by asbestos. He said it cannot be cured. We could hardly take in what the doctor was saying. Mum was just not ready to die, she looked at Jason and I and that just made her more upset seeing our pain.”
A collapse at home in February led to a course of radiotherapy treatment, but the disease progressed rapidly, although Mary recalled the hardest part was telling her grandchildren.
Vicky said: “Mum and I told my two children, aged 6 and 8 at the time, about her diagnosis in January together. They had seen us crying and upset and they knew something was wrong. The lung cancer nurse advised us to be honest with them. It was heart-breaking to tell them the truth from Nana.”
Vicky said: “Mum and I were very close. She was always there for us and we all miss her so much. Working at Irwin Mitchell meant I could source the help Mum needed, but my years of working with asbestos victims meant none of us were under any illusions about what a diagnosis of mesothelioma might mean. Even so nothing prepares you for the impact on family and friends.”
“You really do need support when things get tough. Pursuing the legal case kept Mum going and having worked in Irwin Mitchell’s asbestos team I knew I could trust their considerable expertise in pursuing the claim quickly and sensitively. Mum worked in a nursing home and helped so many people in her life and she would be proud if her story could help others facing the same struggle.”
Expert OpinionAll cases of asbestos related disease are tragic, but when the family of a colleague is affected, it really brings it home to you that any one of us has the potential to be touched by the terrible legacy of asbestos.”
“Over 5,000 people die every year from asbestos related diseases in the UK, but 20 years on from the ban, it is still an under reported issue, given the impact it has on thousands of families every year.
While nothing can bring Mary back, and cancers like mesothelioma currently have no cure, Mary’s family hope that her story will raise awareness to help diagnose the disease early and promote research so as to open up more treatment options for sufferers and give them a better quality of life." Adrian Budgen - Partner
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