The family of a Cardiff woman say she died after being exposed to asbestos dust at the bank where she worked and described her as having "wasted away" before their eyes. The mum-of-two had been based at HSBC's St Mary Street branch between 1984 and 1994, during which time renovation work had taken place around her during office hours.
However, it wasn't until August 2019 that the cashier - whose identity has been withheld at the request of her relatives - initially started to suffer breathlessness. Eventually, following a series of tests and X-rays, she was diagnosed with the incurable condition known as mesothelioma in June 2020.
And, despite undergoing a course of treatment, she died less than 12 months later. She was 74.
READ MORE: Deaths of two nurses who contracted Covid-19 ruled industrial disease
"Mum started working for the bank, which was still called Midland back then, when she was just 18," said her daughter, a 53-year-old GP practice manager from Rhiwbina. "She loved her job and stayed with them until she took early retirement at 55."
She recalled how her mother would come home from work some evenings completely covered in dust. "As a teenager I remember her being absolutely filthy as she walked in through the front door and she'd tell us about all the building work that was happening at her branch."
However, the family says the effect of breathing in those airborne asbestos fibres would take a devastating toll. "Mum had always lived life to the full and really enjoyed travelling, Her ambition was always to go to America and visit all 50 states, which she eventually did - some she even managed to get to more than once.
"But she ended up someone who didn't want to go anywhere, do anything or eat anything. In the end she lost her mobility altogether." Her daughter added that, once diagnosed with mesothelioma in June 2020, she deteriorated rapidly.
"I had to move in with her in order to care for her, because Covid was very much a thing at the time. And I saw firsthand how she was wasting away - she was losing so much weight.
"I'm just thankful to everyone at City Hospice and the Marie Curie nurses - their support meant Mum could die at home with dignity." The coroner at her inquest would later rule the death had been industrial-related and, although HSBC never formally admitted liability, they settled with the family out of court last November.
"I don't blame them for what happened really," said the daughter. "It was a very different time back then and there was far less awareness regarding the dangers of being exposed to asbestos.
"Those at the bank didn't know anymore about the risks than the rest of us did. Thankfully, that wouldn't be repeated nowadays.
"I'm just angry and sad that mum's no longer around. All of us, her grandkids and great grandchild included, still miss her very much. "
Litigation Executive Peter Lodge, of Festival Law, helped the family successfully negotiate their claim against the bank. He said, "I have been pursuing asbestos claims for the past 30 years and in my experience the condition has predominantly been associated with those who work where asbestos is used more frequently, such as in the building industry.
"Although this lady never worked in such an environment, it has been established that this minimal exposure to asbestos was sufficient to lead to her deadly condition. Potentially, inhaling one fibre of asbestos could be enough to cause mesothelioma, for which there is currently no known cure."
HSBC, which bought Midland Bank in 1992, declined to comment.
- Son learnt first aid on a whim and within weeks used it to save dad’s life
- 'I found out I had cancer at the age of 31 - just 16 months after getting married'
- 82-year-old woman with pneumonia waited 36 hours in a chair in A&E
- Doctors claim hospital discharge guidance could see patients die
- Pensioner with a broken hip strapped to bin lid and driven to A&E in van instead of ambulance