Nurse was exposed to asbestos at hospital 30 years ago

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Nurse was exposed to asbestos at hospital 30 years ago

31st March 2010

A nurse who developed cancer after being exposed to lethal asbestos at a Wigan hospital more than 30 years ago, is appealing for former colleagues to come forward and help in her fight for justice.

Carole Reilly, nee Noble, who was a nursery nurse at Billinge Hospital in Upholland Road for more than five years, suffers from mesothelioma - a painful cancer caused by exposure to deadly asbestos fibres. Mrs Reilly, of Abbeycroft Close, Astley, worked at Billinge from 1976 until 1982, and believes the work she did there 30 years ago has led to her illness.

"I started work at Billinge Hospital at the end of 1976," she said. "I was the first nursery nurse they ever had, and for a while I was the only one. I was very noticeable as I was the only nurse wearing a bright yellow dress, so hopefully some of my former colleagues will remember me."

Mrs Reilly, who is 52, worked in E Ward, which was initially an isolation ward for patients with infectious diseases but which changed to an Acute Medical Paediatric Ward shortly after she began working there. "I was responsible for looking after the children in E Ward," she said. "E ward was the old Maternity Ward. It was an old, outside building and was separated from the main hospital by a few yards. The main hospital had a massive corridor which was about a quarter of a mile long and would take about five minutes to cover," she said.

Mrs Reilly said she would have to go through the corridor every day to get to the main hospital. "I'd go through it to get milk for the children and also to go to the canteen," she said. "I used to be a 'runner' which meant I had to literally run from E Ward to the maternity ward whenever a sick child was brought in and needed specialist equipment, and I also took the children from E Ward for their x-rays. I would pass through the corridor several times every day," she said.

"There were large service pipes running the full length of the corridor, along and near the ceiling," said Mrs Reilly. "I remember these pipes were large with metal clips at regular intervals, and they were lagged."

Mrs Reilly said the corridor regularly underwent repair work and that workmen were often carrying out maintenance as she passed through. "There were also hot water pipes running along or close to the ceiling in most of the rooms in E Ward," she said. "There was a particularly large hot water pipe running along the ceiling of the laundry room, and there were large pipes running along the ceilings of the bathroom in the nurses' home, where I lived at the time."

Mrs Reilly worked 37˝ hours a week at Billinge Hospital for more than five years, but it wasn't until more than two decades later when she realised it had seriously affected her health. "I started to suffer swelling and pain in my abdomen," she said. "I went to see my doctor and I was referred to hospital for further tests. I couldn't believe it when I found out I had mesothelioma. I was just devastated."

Susan Dawson, an industrial disease specialist with Fentons Solicitors LLP, said mesothelioma is a form of cancer virtually always caused by earlier exposure to asbestos. It is widely believed as little as one asbestos fibre can lead to the disease developing.

"Mrs Reilly has been through a traumatic ordeal, undergoing test after extensive test and various different treatments, including chemotherapy," said Miss Dawson. "She now needs former colleagues to come forward as she makes a claim for compensation.

"Unless we can prove that she was exposed to asbestos at the hospital, Mrs Reilly may go uncompensated for the fact that she has developed this dreadful illness through no fault of her own," she said. "All she did was go to work."

Can you help?
If you remember working alongside Carole Reilly (nee Noble) at Billinge Hospital, if you were a workman who carried out maintenance there between 1976 and 1982, or if you think you can help in any way, please call Susan Dawson on 0161 238 6420 or e-mail