Asbestos warning from widow whose husband died 50 years after exposure (From Richmond and Twickenham Times)
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Asbestos warning from widow whose husband died 50 years after exposure
A widow, whose husband died a painful death 50 years after he was exposed to asbestos, has warned others to get themselves checked.
Peter Blackburn died aged 71 in the Princess Alice Hospice in Esher on January 30, after a painful battle with mesothelioma – a rare form of cancer most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos.
An inquest held at West London Coroner’s Court on September 17, his 25th wedding anniversary, gave the cause of death as bronchopneumonia and asbestos-related malignant mesothelioma.
Mr Blackburn’s widow Susan, 58, said: “I want to say to anyone if they get breathless and they’ve had exposure to asbestos then to go to see their doctor as soon as possible because I would hate anyone to go down Peter’s route.”
The inquest heard Mr Blackburn, who was born in Barnes and spent his later life in Richmond, had worked as a builder and ripped out underground boilers that were covered in asbestos in 1963.
Coroner Jeremy Chipperford said: “It is clear to me that this was an indiscriminate disease and that is the verdict that will be recorded.
“This was a painful and distressing experience that he went through, both for the family and those treating him.”
The UK has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, largely because asbestos use continued in the UK long after it was halted in other parts of the world.
Academics have suggested the number of mesothelioma cases might rise as those exposed to asbestos years ago begin to suffer the symptoms.
Mr Blackburn, a fit and healthy man, had six trips to hospitals after he suffered from breathlessness and pain on his right side.
He underwent a number of procedures including the fitting of a chest drain and had a Pet scan, but was always sent home.
The inquest heard Mr Blackburn’s case was a catch-22 because doctors did not have tissue evidence to administer cancer treatment drugs, which can kill patients who are frail if they do not have cancer.
Mrs Blackburn said: “He was such a strong person and he wouldn’t want anyone to suffer like he has.
“It is the medical anguish he went through – he said he wouldn’t wish it on his worst enemy.”
The couple met in the Bull’s Head Pub in Barnes in 1980, married eight years later and had two sons.
Mr Blackburn served in the Army’s second battalion for four years and when they later moved to Richmond, the couple would often enjoy walks in Kew Gardens and by the river.
Mrs Blackburn said: “He had a fantastic sense of humour, was very loyal, hardworking, trustworthy, loved his family, loved travelling – he was a happy bunny.
“I really want people to be aware of asbestos because it is insidious and a really wicked thing.”
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