A GRANDMOTHER who worked at Brookwood Hospital in the 1970s is appealing to former colleagues for help after she contracted mesothelioma – an incurable cancer of the lining of the lung linked to asbestos exposure.
Shirley Price, who is 80 and was born in Herne Bay, Kent, received the diagnosis just before Christmas, leaving herself and her family – including three children, two grandchildren, one great-grandchild and four step great-grandchildren – devastated.
She had visited her local GP with breathing difficulties on numerous occasions, and was eventually forced to call for an ambulance, which took her to Kent and Canterbury Hospital during a particularly frightening bout of breathlessness.
X-rays revealed a shadow on her lungs and she was admitted to Guy’s Hospital, London, where tests revealed she is suffering from the deadly asbestos-related disease.
Shirley believes she was exposed to asbestos dust while working at Knaphill’s Brookwood Hospital. She was a cleaner and carer in the main building, Florence House, for three years from around 1974.
She has instructed specialist asbestos disease lawyers at Novum Law to help her investigate the working conditions she endured.
Shirley explained: “I worked as a cleaner, constantly dusting, sweeping, mopping and scrubbing. There were lots of little side wards off the main ward and many large radiators, so plenty 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.”
Brookwood Hospital was a community all of its own – including a dairy farm, cobbler’s workshop, large ballroom, gasworks and a sewage farm. The hospital even had its own fire brigade.
It closed its doors for the last time in 1994 and Florence House has since been converted into luxury apartments. The former hospital chapel is now a Buddhist Monastery and the former mortuary the living quarters for the monks. The hospital grounds themselves have become home to retail superstores and residences.
Shirley and her family are appealing for anyone who worked at Brookwood Hospital during the 1970s, until it closed in 1994, to come forward.
The appeal is for anybody, including any maintenance men who worked at the site, who can remember anything about asbestos in the building.
Helen Grady, an expert asbestos disease solicitor at Novum Law, who specialises in mesothelioma cases, said: “This 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.
“Understandably, Shirley and her family are extremely upset and have been left shattered by her diagnosis. Prior to her illness, she lived alone and was very independent, walking a mile with a friend several times a week to do her shopping in Herne Bay.
“She now lives with her daughter Faith Williams, who is her full-time carer. Our research suggests that there was a lot of asbestos at Brookwood Hospital and it is hoped that many ex-workers will come forward with information, including maintenance men, who may well remember asbestos being on the site.