Several years ago, I lost my father, Frank, to a kind of cancer called mesothelioma. A day does not pass without me thinking of him. Dad contracted mesothelioma from when he was an electrician working in the US navy. The real heartache was that Dad died when he was 72- but he was discharged when he was 37, so it took him 35 years to die- all those years of suffering- I cannot even imagine how he coped with the pain. I understand, from the doctors, that one could describe the pain as swallowing broken glass.
I have consulted many experts in mesothelioma and have discovered that this illness is rife in former members of the US Navy. Worse still, it could have been prevented.
Mesothelioma is commonly caused when a person inhales asbestos fibers. Asbestos for many years was used in almost every naval vessel. It was regarded as an excellent fire-retardant and was used in the main structure of ships, from the lagging of hot water pipes to use in gun towers. However, if the material was ever broken up, or damaged, it throws in to the air tiny particles or fibers. Of course, anyone in the vicinity is at risk of inhaling these particles.
Once the particles have been inhaled, they usually end up in the lungs. Here they start to interact and affect the lungs. The major body organs such as the lungs and abdomen have a lining surrounding them- this is called the mesothelium. When the asbestos particles come into contact with the mesothelium, they may cause mesothelioma.
Dad had a number of symptoms which gave away the fact something serious was wrong. His breath became extremely pungent and he had coughing fits that would not respond to conventional medicine. Finally one day, the doctors diagnosed Frank with mesothelioma, after pulling and prodding him for months. You would think that by now, with all the marvels of modern medicine, they would have been able to start treatment. Not so, it was too late- the mesothelioma has spread to his lungs, abdomen and genitals. He died less than six months later
Here lies the rub; it turns out the Navy, as well as the rest of the asbestos industry knew that asbestos was dangerous if it was inhaled. Since labor was cheap in those days, workmen were not warned of the risks of coming into contact with asbestos. If anything they were encouraged to take greater part.
The past three years have seen a flood of litigation, with employees suing former employers or those who have manufactured this hazardous material. Dad decided to also sue and we commence a lawsuit against the Navy/ Federal Government. There were a number of mesothelioma law firm available to us when we filed our lawsuit. We included include a claim for medical bills as well as compensation for the personal injury.