Sophia, her mother and her siblings are wondering whether they should get tested for asbestosis. "None of us have gone to the doctor or even made any inquiries about getting tested because I think we are all scared of the consequences," says Sophia.
"My mom is having a lot of respiratory and pulmonary problems. She has been given 'trial and error' types of medications but nothing seems to work and that really concerns me. She has this nasty, dry cough that weakens her so I am worried.
"I remember dad coming home in his work clothes; he worked different shifts so sometimes I would be home from school. I washed his clothes and mom washed them. He took us driving in the car wearing his work clothes. But I don't specifically remember asbestos on him because none of us would have known what asbestos dust looked like.
"When we were growing up, I remember that dad was very active, and he was a big man. He was 6' 2" and 250 lbs when he retired, and he was in good shape. But this mesothelioma hit him hard and fast: he went down to 140 lbs suddenly."
Sophia doesn't remember her dad wearing any protective gear. Even though a set of guidelines titled The Minimum Requirements for Safety and Industrial Health in Contract Shipyards was published in 1943, and was approved by both the Secretary of the Navy and the Chairman of the Maritime Commission, compliance surveys taken at Bethlehem shipyards indicated that no change in the handling of asbestos resulted from the Navy's attempt to mandate safety standards.
Sophia does remember her dad wearing steel-toed boots and gloves, hardly protection against asbestos fibers. And she remembers his lunch box and thermos. "I used to make dad sandwiches; his favorite was a steak sub sandwich with a little bit of lettuce and mayo," she reminisces. "And black coffee."
Her dad was sick for about nine years before he went to a hospice. "I was really close to him," Sophia adds. "He always told me that his time was going to be short. I said, 'That isn't your call but if you want permission to leave, it's OK.' Then he asked me if he was a good father. Ohmigoodness yes. He was my hero.
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"I have contacted an asbestos attorney, but to be honest, I don't know what to expect. Maybe I just want to talk about my dad. I just want the public to know what happened to him at this shipyard."
There are several diagnostic tests that Sophia and her family could take, but asbestosis is difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms are similar to those of many other types of respiratory diseases, according to the Mayo Clinic.
As for the Bethlehem shipyards, in 2008, a 73-year-old Baltimore man was awarded $15.3 million after a jury determined his cancer was linked to asbestos exposure while working at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Key Highway ship repair facility in the 1950s.