- Date: Monday 4th February 2013
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Penny Garner, 45, says they played as the baths next door pulled down. She fell ill, then 18 months later was diagnosed with cancer - and medics asked her when she had worked with asbestos.
When Penny Garner, 45, started suffering chest pains her doctor told her she had pulled a muscle. When the problems continued she was diagnosed with pneumonia.
But 18 months later after a series of tests she was diagnosed with cancer – and medics asked her when she had worked with asbestos.
She recalls spending playtimes as a pupil at Seedley primary school in Salford during the 1970s watching builders demolish the historic baths – which were believed to have contained asbestos – next door.
Now, after two years of treatment, she has been told her illness is terminal and it is not known how long she will live.
She is suing Salford council and Ardwick-based building firm P McGuinness and Co, who demolished the baths and who she believes exposed her to deadly fibres. The firm strongly denies her claims.
Penny, of Peel Green, Eccles, said: “It is terrifying that I could catch a terminal disease from playing in the yard at school and now all my friends from that time are worried too. My mother is terrified for my brother who is a couple of years older than me.”
She added: “My condition is stable at the moment but I am living in limbo. It is like a terrible waiting game between the tests I have to have every two months.
“At first I could not believe it. I don’t think the doctors did either because it took ages to diagnose me and they don’t often see it in someone of my age.
“I try to get up and to follow my normal routine for the children. I have to for their sake but it is very difficult. It is heartbreaking.” The former seamstress gave up her job when her daughter Becky, now 20, was born with a chromosomal disorder which means she will never live independently.
Penny’s solicitor Neil Fisher, from industrial diseases experts John Pickering and Partners, is fighting to secure funding for Becky’s future and for Penny’s other two children, James, 15, and Lucy, 12.
He says cases among younger people who have never worked in heavy industry are still rare but are on the increase.
He said: “This case is unusual because Penny is so young and has not worked with asbestos, but we are seeing more cases like this over the last few years.”
Mr Fisher quizzed Penny about the places where she had worked. He then looked back into her time at school and it was her brother who initially remembered the baths being demolished in 1978, after asbestos was discovered in the building.
When Penny was diagnosed with cancer, hospital staff told her about the Asbestos support group and they have helped her sue for compensation. The civil case is due to be heard in the High Court later this month.
P McGuinness and Co, whose website says they are specialists in asbestos removal, said they strongly refute the claims and will be defending the case robustly in court.
Salford council declined to comment while legal proceedings are active.
Mr Fisher is hoping people who remember the demolition of Seedley baths will come forward as they may be able to help in Penny’s case. He is asking people to contact him on 0161 8341251.
Seedley primary school closed in 2010 and was pulled down. The site is now wasteland.
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