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I have wanted to write this for a long time, it has been on my mind since 2011, and there was never a right time for me to ask, never a right time in my mind as I didn’t want to speak to my cousin and upset her, and have the guilt of that on my conscience. I write this with a sense of sadness, as I asked today if I could share this story, I finally asked my cousin and, I was given that blessing by her, here is Lenny's story.

In Northern Ireland, a young lad, Lenny Carson had started his apprentice as a carpenter, during his trade he learnt a lot of different styles of building, carpentry and Joinery.Like any Lad in Northern Ireland during the 1980’s, he was a bit of a larrikin, always up for an adventure, always ready to lend a hand to anyone who asked for help, never got into any ‘real’ trouble with the law, kept to himself and his group of friends, and his strong Family.

One of the jobs Lenny did as a 17 year old apprentice was working on re-roofing a cigarette factory, and the company who lenny worked for got the job to remove the tiles from the site. Off they went throwing all these tiles into skip bins, they got in and got the job done.

Lenny finished his apprentice, worked for a couple of different companies, learning his trade and expanding his skillset before he headed down under in his early twenties, keen to explore the world and find some adventure. He developed a taste for scuba diving and ended up working as a dive instructor in Cairns, taking people on their own underwater adventures, it was a beautiful lifestyle. He worked for a while in Melbourne in the big city for a change of scenery, before heading back to Ballymena where, with the support of the Princes Trust, he opened up a kitchen building and furniture business.

As with running any business, there comes a time for the need of a change, so Lenny decided after a while to head back to Australia for a 12 month break, to catch up with old friends - it was the beginning of a new adventure. After a couple of months, at a Greek Singles Night in Melbourne, Lenny met a lovely woman who just clicked with him, he was so happy.

They very quickly became an item, and headed back to his hometown together, to wind up his business, and got engaged. They then headed to Thailand, and New Zealand to meet her folks and get hitched. I am proud to say she is my Cousin, I met Lenny a few times and was so happy for her, she had a good guy who was going to look after her and start a family, I also saw how happy Lenny was, to be honest, I was proud of my cousin, and I felt happy.

Lenny fell in love with Dunedin, and the lifestyle of the South, and was set for life. After not very long, his new wife got itchy feet and off they went back to Australia. Life was grand, back in Melbourne, earning some money, they bought a 19 foot yacht for weekend adventures on the bay and a house to grow a family in. After a round of IVF, that journey began, and Lenny was sorted, wife, house, yacht, baby coming. Everything was in order.

So he decided to go to a Doctor and sort out his fungal nail infection. He mentioned a bit of a fever he’d recently had, night sweats and a bit of a gripey stomach ache. Testing started and by February 2011, a diagnosis was clear and the prognosis was shite.

One day out of the blue I was told that Lenny was sick, I was told that he had mesothelioma, and I was told also that it was terminal. I could not believe it, I was floored, I could only imagine what my cousin and their immediate families were going through, I kept my distance, and I hope that was not taken as anything other than my not being able to help nor do anything.

The news honestly floored me, I couldn’t ring my cousin, I didn’t know what to say, there is nothing to say when something like this happens. I knew what the outcome would be, and I shed a tear, for Lenny was so young, he and my cousin were so happy…….

And this is the boy who is growing up without his father, because of asbestos.

This is a true story of how this hideous mineral has directly affected one of my dear family members, it also has affected all their friends and family as well.

In closing, I would like to say that this could have all been avoided, if the appropriate precautions had been taken. Those few days they were working at the factory is all it took.

Please, for everyone’s sake, Please, please, educate yourself about this stuff if you are working with it, your life depends on it.

This is a foot note from Lenny’s wife, she has asked I make everyone I can aware of this.

Just for the sake of clarity - I am pretty sure that he did wear a dust mask – it wasn’t enough though. More than an ordinary dust mask is needed. This was the only time he identified working with asbestos in his life.

And there was clear evidence that the cigarette factory was aware of the risks. And employed the business to do the clean up anyway. All economic decisions. Money is the root of all evil.

I hope that this helps build some confidence and clarity for newbies in the trade, so that they feel justified in declining to work with asbestos without adequate protections, because that shit can kill. xo

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