Mesothelioma Patient Stories:
This story is about a man who always wanted to teach. To obtain money for college, he worked as a laborer in an insulation plant. The insulation produced at this plant was derived from vermiculite, a naturally occurring mineral. While generally considered a safe material, some strains of vermiculite are contaminated with asbestos.
The vermiculite mined in Libby, Montana, contains the highly lethal type of asbestos, called tremolite. At the insulation processing plant in Spokane, where this man labored for 23 months hauling tons of vermiculite ore from the railcars to the ovens, dust was constantly in the air. This dust was filled with asbestos laden vermiculite. Although the dangers of asbestos were known at the time, no one suggested that the employees of this plant wear respirators or other devices to reduce the dust inhalation.
Many decades later, this active teacher of middle school children was well liked and was an inspiration for many kids. He felt his health was excellent and spent a lot of time outdoors bicycling and playing basketball. In 1994, 36 years after working with the asbestos contaminated mineral, he started to experience abdominal swelling and shortness of breath.
In January 1995, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. He immediately had to start a process where he spent three days a week in chemotherapy. Then, he started losing weight and was constantly vomiting. Eventually, he had to give up his teaching at the Portland schools where he'd spent 28 years inspiring his students. By September 1995 he was admitted to the hospital and was on pain relievers all day. He died in early November 1995. Many of his seventh and eighth grade students could not understand his sudden passing and could not even spell the word mesothelioma. In the end, W. R. Grace, who owned the vermiculite plant, settled a wrongful death suit with the family of this "favorite teacher." The details of the settlement were not released.
His brother was also employed by the vermiculite plant, but worked outside, not inside where the dust was heaviest. So far, his lungs appear clear, but he and the rest of his family will have an asbestos cloud hanging over their heads for the rest of their lives.
» More Mesothelioma Stories
[Page updated August 2009]