From left, daughter Faith Williams, Shirley Price and sons Glenn and Robin Price
A grandmother is appealing to former colleagues after being diagnosed with an incurable disease she believes was caused by exposure to asbestos at her workplace.
Shirley Price, who was born in Herne Bay and has lived in the town all her life, was told just before Christmas that she had contracted mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the chest.
Shirley, 80, is convinced that the disease was sparked by exposure to asbestos at Brookwood Hospital in Knaphill, Surrey, where she worked in the 1970s.
Now she is asking former colleagues, ex-workers and maintenance men who worked at the hospital between the 1970s until the hospital’s closure in 1994 for help.
She says it is probable that others who worked there at the time were similarly unaware of the dangers of asbestos exposure.
Helen Grady, an expert in asbestos disease solicitor at Novum Law who specialises in mesothelioma cases, said: “Mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive and incurable cancer that is extremely debilitating for sufferers, who, like Shirley, were exposed to deadly asbestos simply by going to work every day.
“Our research suggests there was a lot of asbestos at Brookwood Hospital and it is hoped that as many ex-workers as possible will come forward with information, including maintenance men who may well remember the asbestos on site.
“It is likely that they were also unaware of the dangers of asbestos exposure during the 1970s.”
Shirley thinks she would have exposed to asbestos – a fibrous material that was regularly used for building insulation before its dangers became apparent – on a regular basis during her time at the hospital, from 1974-75.
“I worked as a cleaner, constantly dusting, sweeping, mopping and scrubbing,” she said.
“There were lots of little side wards going off the main ward and many large radiators and lots of pipework to clean.
“I dusted the windowsills, pipework and radiators and this was part and parcel of my normal, daily cleaning routines. There was always dust and mess to clear up.
“As the hospital was so big, there were permanent maintenance men onsite. They regularly came on to the ward where I was working to carry out their maintenance and repair jobs.”
Her son Robin said: “It’s been traumatic – going back as recently as November she would still walk from Hampton to Herne Bay with her friends.
“But she started getting breathless to the point where she was struggling to breathe.
“At hospital a litre of fluid was drained from her lung where it had come away from the chest wall.
“She was referred to Guy’s hospital, a consultant explained to Mum what could it could possibly be.”
Sadly, the consultant’s suspicion proved correct and in January Shirley’s family – she has three children and two grandchildren – were told she could have just six to eight weeks to live.
“It was a major shock to the family,” said Robin. “We all feel very angry because the asbestos seemed to have been used everywhere to lag the pipes – we’ve read the survey report.”
“We’re trying to get people who worked any time up till it shut in 1994 and who can back our case to come forward. Of course, there might have been other cases. We want to stress that the government knew asbestos was being used but didn’t upon it.
“We want to demonstrate the fact it was just a shame people weren’t told or warned about it. We want to make people more aware of the dangers – you can be carrying this in your body for 40-60 years before something triggers it.”
n Anyone with any information about the working conditions at Brookwood Hospital is asked to contact Helen Grady at Novum Law on 0800 884 0555 (freephone) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.