The family of a former nurse who died from an asbestos-related cancer are appealing for her former colleagues to come forward with information about the working conditions she may have endured to help lawyers investigate her death, which they describe as “completely heartbreaking.”
Joyce Smith died from mesothelioma in March 2012 aged 86-after a nine month battle with the incurable condition. She believed she came into contact with the deadly dust in one of the old hospitals she worked in during her long and dedicated career as a nurse.
Joyce’s, family have now instructed industrial illness experts at Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office to help with her battle for justice. Together they are appealing for Joyce’s former colleagues at the hospitals she worked in throughout Manchester, Yorkshire and Wales to come forward with information about the conditions within the hospital buildings and the possible presence of asbestos-lagged pipework that may have been damaged during maintenance work.
David Jessop, Joyce’s nephew, said: “Joyce was incredibly devoted to her work and put helping others before getting married and having children of her own. When she sadly passed away she wanted us to make sure this investigation was carried out to find out when and where she was exposed to the asbestos.
“It is heartbreaking to think that my auntie was killed by exposure to something during the career that she was so fiercely dedicated to and successful in. She was a truly remarkable woman and a fantastic nurse and we want to make sure we achieve justice on her behalf and in her memory.
“She was always a strong woman, and even overcame serious childhood tuberculosis to achieve her dream of working as a nurse. It is such a shame that the asbestos exposure we believe she endured led to cancer that she could not overcome irrespective of her fantastic will power and determination.”
Ian Toft, an industrial illness expert at Irwin Mitchell representing David, said: “Mesothelioma is a devastating cancer which sadly has no cure. The disease has an incredibly long incubation period from when somebody is first exposed to the dust and it can lead to serious illnesses decades later.
“Asbestos used to be prolific in public buildings such as hospitals and schools and it is
is incredibly sad to think that she may have been exposed to it in one of the places in which she spent so much time looking after others.
“We are keen to speak to anybody who worked with Joyce in any of the hospitals mentioned as they might be able to shed light on the presence of the asbestos and help Joyce’s family answer their questions of where and when she was exposed to the dust that ultimately led to her death.”
Joyce, from Netherton, Huddersfield, began her career in September 1942 when she enrolled at Manchester Royal Infirmary on a nursing studies course. However, she was forced to leave the hospital after just four months as a result of ill health.
She was later accepted onto a training course at Scarborough Hospital in 1945 and went on to spend three and half years working there.
After qualifying as a midwife in 1950, Joyce took up a post at Salford Royal Hospital before moving to the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry between 1959 and 1963. She then took up a role as principal sister tutor at Harlow Wood Orthopaedic Hospital, Nottingham in 1964. Later in 1964, Joyce worked as a tutor in the United Sheffield Hospitals School of Nursing.
In April 1970, Joyce had the honour of overseeing the conversion of ‘Ellerslie’ into the Orthopaedic Nurse Training School for Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, where she was Principal Sister Tutor until her retirement in 1979.
Anybody who believes they may be able to help should contact Ian Toft at Irwin Mitchell on 0370 1500 100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org