13 January 2006

Asbestos: our father’s agonising death


by Francesca Ryan

Two daughters of a West Belfast man who died from an asbestos-related disease have poured their hearts out to the Andersonstown News in a bid to highlight the dangers of the deadly substance.

Colette Devlin and Anne Carson lost their father, Robert Daly, in December 1999, just over a year after he was diagnosed with the deadly asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma.

“My father had moved away to Swansea in his teens to work in the shipyards because there was no work here," explained Colette. “It was there that he would have been exposed to the asbestos which eventually killed him."

After almost 75 years of robust health, Robert began to develop aches and pains which left the doctors baffled.

“My father always looked after himself, you would never have taken him for his age. He was a non-smoker and loved walking, my mother often found it hard to keep up with him," said Anne.

“But then he began complaining about a pain in his side and started losing weight rapidly. I remember he got a flu injection but it didn't work and he quickly went downhill from then."

Following a series of trips to the hospital for tests and x-rays, Robert was diagnosed with mesothelioma a year later, in October 1998.

“The weight fell off him, he had no appetite at all and was going through radiotherapy. He developed breathing problems and basically faded away in front of our eyes," said Colette.

Robert's tumour grew so big that it pressed against his oesophagus rendering him unable to swallow and for the last few weeks of his life he was connected to a feeding tube as well as the breathing apparatus.

“My father was stunned but just did what the doctors said, there was nothing we could do but watch. The family was absolutely devastated and it was horrific to see him fade away in front of us."

Even when Robert passed on, the family’s pain continued, as Colette explained.

“We were told that a postmortem would have to be carried out even though everyone knew my father had mesothelioma.

“Two PSNI Land Rovers came and the police interviewed everyone that was in the room when my father died," said Anne.

“They asked me who was in the room with him and what relation I was, then the Land Rovers escorted the hearse out of the area. The whole district was out watching, it was just a nightmare, the whole episode."

With eight children between them, the sisters are concerned for the welfare of their children, Robert’s grandchildren, in light of plans to place an asbestos storage facility in West Belfast.

“This is completely irresponsible, it shouldn't happen and can't be allowed to happen.

“I was just appalled when I read the article in last week's Andersonstown News. We may not see the results in the next five years but in 30 or 40 years it could be our kids that develop this horrific illness.

“Accidents can happen and these people [Grove Services] cannot guarantee us that they won't," said Colette.

“We are so angry and are willing to do whatever it takes to get this decision reversed.

“Our father could have had another eight to ten years with us, but asbestos killed him.

“It is a killer, it does happen and people need to know this," added Anne.

Journalist:: Francesca Ryan

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