Asbestosis stole Jo's husband aged 54yrs
FOR four years Jo Mackel watched the love of her life struggle every day to take a simple breath of air. Malachy, her husband of 37 years, spent years in and out of hospital in agony. But with his wife by his side he spent most of his time at home right up until the day he died. "It was the most painful thing to watch," said Mrs Mackel, of Banora Point. "To see the man you love, a man who fought so hard for his survival, just deteriorate so fast in his last months." Mr Mackel was diagnosed with%aggressive mesothelioma - caused by exposure to asbestos - in September 2000, aged 54. At the time he was given six to 12 months to live, but held on for another four years before losing his battle with the same deadly disease which yesterday claimed the life of passionate advocate for asbestos victims, Bernie Banton. Mr Mackel was 59 when he died. Mr Banton, who became the public face in the battle against James Hardie which eventually gained $4.2 billion in compensation for sufferers, was just 61. "It's too young to die, especially considering it could have been prevented," Mrs Mackel said. "His family is suffering and he never got to see our house get finished, or meet his two youngest grandchildren." Mr Mackel, born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, started work as a pipe fitter/welder at the age of 15. He met his wife at a dance before migrating to Australia in 1972. They lived at Ipswich but bought land at Banora Point in the hope of%retiring to the Tweed together. Mr Mackel, who worked for four companies in the United Kingdom and then worked in Australia, all of which exposed him to asbestos products, died just two months before his wife moved into their new home, alone. "I still remember him coming home from work covered in asbestos dust," Mrs Mackel said. "At the time we didn't know it was asbestos, and he would nurse the kids, cuddle them. "People were always exposed to large quantities of asbestos 40-odd years ago. "We used to play with it, it was like play dough. We used to use it as skipping ropes." So common was exposure to asbestos, that in the Mackel family, a father and two sons died from the incurable disease. Malachy's brother John died eight years ago, as did his father, also called John, who died over 20 years ago. All three suffered from complications brought on by their exposure to deadly asbestos dust and fibres. Nick Bos, secretary of the Asbestosis and Mesothelioma Support Group on the Tweed, yesterday said that while the disease traditionally affected men, many women who had lost their husbands were left with very%little support. "We have about 12 people who%attend meetings, and as many as 30 or 40 people on our mailing list on the Tweed or from the Gold Coast," Mr Bos said. "But we really are just scratching the surface of the number of victims living in Richmond (electorate). "It's frustrating because a lot of this could have been avoided. Concerns about asbestos were raised in the seventies, but it was continually covered up, lied about. "We now have more sufferers of asbestos-related disease, of incidents of mesothelioma, than any other country in the world." To contact the Tweed's Asbestosis and Mesothelioma Support Group call (07)5599 7876.