Asbestosis Diagnoses Are Lifelong Sentences

30 years after he was first exposed to asbestos, Irishman Jim Halligan describes his asbestosis diagnosis as being “like living with a death sentence hanging over you…If you get it, you have it for the rest of your life.” Asbestosis is one of the most tragic health issues facing those who have been exposed to asbestos. However, many don’t understand the disease, nor the lasting and long term effects an asbestosis diagnosis can have on a person’s life.

What is Asbestosis?

Most people know that exposure to asbestos can result in lung cancer, mesothelioma and other life threatening illnesses. However, many have never even heard of asbestosis. Asbestosis is a lung disease that is caused by breathing in fibers containing asbestos. The breathing in of these fibers causes severe scarring of the lung’s tissues. Over time this scar tissue in the chest does not contract and expand the way lung tissue usually do. Instead, after exposure occurs the chest’s lining walls get thicker and harden from the scarring. Asbestosis makes it difficult to breath, and impedes the flow of oxygen into the bloodstream.

There is no cure for asbestosis, and the disease only gets worse as time progresses. In the United States alone, from the years 1999 to 2004, over 3,200 asbestosis deaths occurred. Some people exhibit no asbestosis symptoms, and the illness can even take 20 years or more to appear. Others experience asbestosis symptoms sooner, which include shortness of breath, difficulties breathing, and extremely low levels of blood oxygen. Asbestosis is considered a life-long sentence because the symptoms typically develop gradually. A person may experience increasing difficulty with breathing, even though lung scarring is not obvious. However, once the disease is full blown, asbestosis can result in the complete failure of a person’s lungs and heart.

The Case of Jim Halligan

Jim Halligan is an Irish ex-Navy worker who received his asbestosis diagnosis over 19 years ago. Years later, Halligan is lucky to be alive, but he is still struggling to both breathe and treat the symptoms of his asbestosis. In the 1980s Halligan was exposed to asbestos while working on the former Navy Service Ship, the LE Deidre. Halligan only worked with the Department from 1982 until 1997, but he can trace his exposure to asbestos back to when he helped replace panels on the bulk-heads of Navy ships while not wearing any asbestos protective clothing. At first Halligan and other workers believed that asbestos was involved, but they were then erroneously led to believe that asbestos was not present in the bulk heads they removed and replaced. It was not until 1995 that Halligan was officially diagnosed with the asbestosis disease after he was being treated for successive chest infections. Though the Ireland Department of Defence settled out of court with Halligan over the asbestos exposure, the Department is still facing looming suits from 40 other similarly situated men.

Now, 19 years later Halligan just had his second lung operation, and a portion of his right lung was removed in order to treat lung cancer, which Halligan believes is also a result of his asbestos exposure. Halligan has also had to cope with persistent pneumonia in his left lung, and regularly suffers from chest infections. He often has to employ inhalers and nebulisers just so he can breath normally. Halligan’s asbestosis represents that fate facing many who have breathed asbestos-containing fibers into their lungs.

Though asbestosis can take years to emerge, it is a persistent disease that only worsens with time. Scared you may have been exposed to asbestos? If so, you should contact an asbestos exposure attorney today.


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