This blog post covers from January 1996 until late 1998.
When we came back from our long Christmas break the changes weren’t radically noticeable. Over the next year and a half there were minor aggravations every few shifts when we would run a diluted version of the Quaker Qwerl and while I did notice that the smells in the plant seemed a bit stronger than normal, I put it down to air quality or not feeling the best. WSIB had accepted that an accident happened but that no further action would take place since we hadn’t lost time.
When we would run the steel that needed the Quaker Qwerl my sinuses would burn but not enough to connect to two but still enough to be bothersome. There was always an easy excuse, bad air quality, tired, maybe getting a cold … always something that seemed to make sense at the time. I had always had seasonal allergies and allergies to the saliva of animals but never enough to stop me from pursuing any activities or having pets. There was also a continuing sense of being tired and of not breathing well that continued to grow slowly over time.
My marriage ended and my son and I moved to an apartment. We began to normalize our lives. We would regularly go rollerblading at Bayfront Park a few times a week and we enjoyed the use of the apartment building’s indoor pool. Yet there was a desire to expand our family and it was decided to make pets a part of our family once again. So pets became part of our lives again as they had been for a good many years. About 6 or 7 weeks later, I ended up in emergency. IT HURT TO BREATHE, a complaint I would reiterate over the coming years. The attending physician said I had asthma and there was no need to worry … “over half the city has it some form or another.”
I was referred to the Firestone Respiratory Clinic by my family physician. I did the allergy tests and finally met Dr. Morse. He was an older, irate man with a distasteful attitude, as far I as was concerned. At this time the Firestone Clinic was actively campaigning for funds to build a new state of the art respiratory clinic. Dofasco had and still does play the role of a “good corporate citizen” with grant monies and funding available for community endeavors. Even the Medical Department at Dofasco had a number of publications talking about the changes that were going to happen at St. Joseph’s Hospital and in particular with the Firestone Clinic. Dr. Morse would constantly berate me for having pets and for not taking my medicines as he had prescribed, which was rather difficult as he would change his instructions with each visit. Eventually I got a copy of the report that he sent to my family doctor … the outrage of being described as a middle-aged (37 years old) neurotic, hypochondriac, “that told an interesting story of getting gassed,” was overwhelming and the thought that a doctor would dismiss both an emergency room and accident reports was disturbing at best. At that time I told my family doctor that I would not return to the Firestone Clinic and specifically Dr. Morse, a decision that was agreed to.
At work I made an appointment to see Dr. Hall who was the senior physician at Dofasco at that time. I talked with him at great length and told him that what I seemed to be experiencing was not what others with asthma experienced. After a couple of conversations he agreed and referred me to an Occupational Respirologist at McMaster Hospital. The Occupational Respirologist examined me and said that as the accident had happened a number of years ago it would be difficult to say for sure how much the exposure had effected me but he did stress to me that “Pets do not cause asthma” and not to let any Respirologist tell me differently.
When I had been diagnosed with asthma, I told everyone that had been affected the night of the accident that they needed to get checked out. The Crane Driver was having problems with his eyes, which would water and burn but no one would support any claim. So he decided not to fight any further. The Assistant Roller called to thank me as his doctor had noted a number of issues but Assistant Roller decided he would not pursue a claim because of those health issues. The Trainee would not admit to any issues, as there were aspirations of moving up the corporate ladder, although I had heard from the others that the Trainee’s family complained that he could barely make it up a flight of stairs.
Lastly, the Lab Person began a similar journey of finding out why he was experiencing such discomfort breathing. We talked a number of times and he complained of being exhausted bending over to tie his skates or even playing with his children and dogs. As an added burden the Quaker Qwerl was considered a teratogen and the two children born after the initial exposure needed special health care. As I moved toward my own WSIB appeal and legal fight, he called and said he couldn’t jeopardize his health benefits for the children but said he was behind me, routing me on. I understood his predicament and had decided differently because I was a single parent. I also knew then that I would not ever attempt to get pregnant if the opportunity arose because I believed that I had seen what some of the ramifications could be and being the only female there were thoughts of just how badly a pregnancy could go.
By mid 1998, the area we were working in was going through a restructuring. I was given an opportunity to change departments. So I was transferred to the Hot Mill Gang Slitter and my respiratory problems increased.