Making babies – Another human cost of the Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Health & Safety scandal

This article was originally published in June 2017 and is being republished as Lunchtime Live on Newstalk 106FM cover IVF & Fertility stories. 

Making babies the hard way.

There is something shameful and deviant about sitting in a small public toilet in a busy public hospital masturbating. Other people want to use the toilet, you are trying to be as quick and as quiet as possible but you have a job to do and you cant leave the cubicle until it is done.

Welcome to the glamorous world of infertility. I was married a number of years at this stage and my wife was starting to worry that pregnancy wasn’t happening for us. She had established contact with a maternity hospital over her worries. She was given a clean bill of health and now it was my turn and this started with a semen analysis to establish if I had a sufficient sperm count and also to establish the health & motility of these.

I presented at small hatch in in one of Dublin’s maternity hospitals where I was given a container, verified my name, address and DOB and was sent on my way to find a free toilet cubical where I could “produce” a sample.

After the job was done I returned the sample to the hatch where I was told that results would be available within the hour, not to me but to my wife’s gynaecologist. So the next day I rang his office for the results and was told that he couldn’t fit me in for an appointment for at least 3 weeks. This pissed me off greatly as I knew a semen analysis is an “eyeball” count and I wasn’t too keen to hang around for weeks awaiting the result.

I sought the consultant’s number and left a message for him to call me back to put me out of my misery. He called me back and confirmed what I had started to suspect…I had a serious fertility problem. A healthy sperm count was between 50 and 100 million sperm per m/l and mine was only 1 million. Considering that the average intercourse attempts before pregnancy in a healthy couple was 1 in 4 attempts my odds of creating a natural pregnancy were one in 400. Essentially it could take 33 years of monthly attempts for success not 4 months.

And there was worse news to come when we finally did sit and meet with the gynaecologist. Of those 1 million sperm that I did have over 90% were immotile or defective in some way so now my odds had lengthened to a 1 in 4000 chance of pregnancy. Now being fairly certain that we didn’t have over 300 years of monthly sex to create a family it became readily apparent we needed the intervention of fertility specialists. The gynaecologist told us our only option was ICSI a particularly expensive specialist form of IVF. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection is a procedure in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg.

In that meeting with the gynaecologist I felt numb and totally drop kicked. I had reached the stage in my life where I wanted to become a father. The previous summer I had been on a rocky beach in the West of Ireland with my wife, her sister and two nieces. I remember walking along the beach with my 1 & 3 year old nieces, lifting over rocks to see the creepy crawly creatures under them, the subsequent delight of the kids and had thought “yep I could be a dad” .

As you can imagine my wife was utterly distraught at the news that we could not have children naturally. She is very good with children and had a much stronger instinct and desires for parenthood than me. The gynaecologist said that considering our ages (early thirties) and the severity of my infertility that we had no time to waste and he recommended Clane IVF clinic.

Starting IVF involves a lot of rigmarole. Further medicals, testing & analysis, and also regular tests for STDs such as hepatitis & HIV in order to protect their staff &  maintain a quality trail.

And of course during this build up our family and circle of friends are popping out sprogs like there is no tomorrow. When you find out you can’t have children naturally you start to notice every single pregnant woman you pass. Everyone is pregnant except you guys.

I do recall a dinner we went to in a friend’s house where there were 3 couples present. The host couple already had a child and over the course of the dinner the other couple declared “they had an announcement” they were expecting their first child. Obviously they were bursting with pride & happiness and we were very happy for them but immediately I could sense that my wife was distressed but “holding it together”.

After the meal was over and we said our goodbyes my wife broke down as soon as she got inside our car. It is unfortunately a reality for childless couples that other people’s good news can cause them pain. I suppose it invokes a panic that perhaps the IVF will never work and leads to a fear that we would never have “an announcement” of our own.

Eventually we received our prescription for the IVF medication which mainly injectable hormones for my wife. Although I was the one with the fertility problem all the treatment of egg production, egg harvesting and embryo implantation was naturally enough focused on my wife. She carried the can 100% for my infertility.

So off we skipped with our prescription like kids to a sweet shop, we could hardly contain our excitement. My wife required daily injections and I was the injector. Initially we were very giddy and one of our biggest problems was that one or other of us would get into a fit of giggles. It is not very easy to give an injection when one or other of you is shaking like a leaf from laughter. I became very skilled at giving the injections and on more than one occasion managed to give an injection that my wife didn’t even notice.

Part of the treatment involved regular inter-vaginal ultrasound monitoring to observe and monitor the growth of eggs. Normally a woman produces one fertile egg follicle per month alternating ovaries but during IVF the fertility drugs promote Controlled Ovarian Hyper-stimulation whereby a larger number of ripened egg follicles are produced. This is in order to harvest as many eggs as possible so that a number of embryos can be created. This increases your odds of success, IVF is very much numbers game.

I accompanied my wife to the first scan and everything was hunky dory so when some work commitments happened to coincide with the next scheduled scan my wife was happy to travel to the clinic on her own as we just saw the scan as routine and had no reason to fear anything was going amiss. So she headed down to Clane on her own and about an hour later I got a call from my wife who was sobbing uncontrollably at the other end. The nurse performing the scan had ultrasound had inserted the probe and then had gone white, she called the doctor urgently and he went white. It turned out my wife had started Hyper Ovulation Stimulation Syndrome and the cycle had to be stopped immediately.

So there and then our current chances of becoming parents evaporated. Many people will talk about the emotional roller-coaster that is IVF but we never paid much heed. We made a serious mistake and that was we never contemplated failure. We only contemplated success, failure wasn’t even on our mind, so when that failure did come we were totally unprepared. It was like the chair had been kicked out from underneath us.

As mentioned IVF essentially involves Controlled Ovarian Hyper-stimulation but Hyper Ovulation Stimulation Syndrome is a very dangerous condition where the woman reacts “too well” to the fertility drugs and produces too many ovarian follicles and is at risk of essentially an internal overdose of hormones leading to respiratory, cardiac or renal problems and can be fatal.

So getting over this HOSS involved stopping treatment and then careful monitoring to make sure the threat dissipated, we then needed my wife’s regular ovulation cycle to get back on track and as you can imagine this took a number of months. We found Clane IVF clinic to be very professional, very supportive and always felt they had our best interests to the fore and would not rush treatment cycles.

For many patients of IVF, the first cycle really is like the zeroing shots at range practice. It allows the IVF professionals get an idea to the responsiveness to IVF drugs of one woman’s body compared to another’s.

For our second cycle the IVF injection dose was adjusted and we made some significant adjustments to our expectations. This time we only contemplated failure and decided that success would be a bonus. This approach we believed would protect us somewhat from disappointment if the cycle failed again.

This cycle however went well and a date was set for February 2008 for the harvesting procedure. Again this involves an inter-vaginal ultrasound probe just this time with a retractable lance that is able to burst each follicle and extract the egg. At the time the IVF clinic was in a portacabins at Clane General Hospital and there was a small 3 bed-roomed ward next to the theatre which was connected via a hatch to the Embryology laboratory.

So my wife got gowned up and was sedated for the procedure as I waited on my own in the small ward. Eventually my wife was brought back into the ward in a wheelchair, bleeding and with tears running down her face and streaming down her neck. For me this was an extremely low point of my life. I felt extremely guilty because this was my fault, I was infertile not my wife. If I was functional she would not have needed to go through this.

So I’m sitting beside my wife who is upset and confused because of the sedation I’m trying to comfort her and then one of the IVF nurses called in to us to tell us the egg harvesting had been a success and that now it was “my turn”. I was handed a small sample container and had to go into a room I had nicknamed “the milking parlour” to have the most important wank of my life. If you pardon my porn reference this was the “money shot”, I had to produce and my aim had to be impeccable.

Once I provided the sample it was handed over immediately to the embryologist and he went and worked his scientific magic of ICSI. IVF is now a very well understood procedure but many people are a bit horrified when they realise the scientific & medical technology was adapted from the livestock industry.

So I believe that 18 eggs were harvested and treated with ICSI. This resulted in 15 successfully fertilised eggs. We opted for a service that matured the zygotes a bit longer in the lab. While this was more expensive it also improved the odds of success when implanted.

I think it was 2 weeks later that we went back for the eggs to be implanted. To improve the chances of success Clane implanted 2 zygotes in what is a relatively straightforward procedure and then it was a waiting game for 2 weeks until the first blood test.

Those 2 weeks are a time of huge anticipation. Do you cheat and try a home pregnancy test or do you wait until the official, higher accuracy, blood pregnancy test. So we waited until the official test and you have to then wait for a phone call from the lab to give you the good or bad news. Like I said we had dampened down expectations but it was till nerve racking.

When the news came it was positive, we were going to be parents. Naturally we were overjoyed and we kicked into “nesting mode” and what turned out to be an uneventful and normal pregnancy.

Sean, our first child,  was born in October 2009 and when I first set eyes on him I became very emotional. Tears came out of nowhere as I sobbed uncontrollably looking at this helpless little bundle swaddled in a hospital blanket, blinking and yawning and wondering where he was.

We still had some frozen embryos and so a year or so later we decided to try for another cycle. This time we chose to implant only a single embryo as a year or so into being parents neither of us fancied the thoughts of being parents of twins. But again, we made the mistake of not contemplating failure, again we thought everything would work like it did the previous time. So cycle 3 was a failure but as well as that all along the different phases of harvesting, fertilisation, implantation, freezing and thawing there was an attrition rate and so after cycle 3 we only had 2 fertilised zygotes left.

Again, after a failed cycle my wife needed a number of months for her menstrual cycle to get back to normal before we could go for the 4th cycle attempt. We took the decision to implant our last 2 remaining embryos taking the chance on twins rather than the expense of a further cycle. Like in the case of our first pregnancy only one embryo took and in May 2012 our second son Ciaran was born.

Both boys are now in school with one in Junior Infants and the other in First Class of our local Educate Together. Both are healthy fun loving kind kids with a love of the outdoors and both have a curious mind and 99% of the time they are a pure joy to raise. The thought always fascinates me as to how would their personalities be different if they had been implanted in the opposite order. Technically they are twins being conceived on the same day but just born over 2 years apart.

IVF was an expensive undertaking and we spent many tens of thousands of euro. I am conscious of many of my Irish Army Air Corps colleagues with fertility difficulties remain childless because either the IVF technology was not mature enough at the time to deal with their level of infertility or because they simply could not afford the cost of the procedure.

I have no doubt that my fertility trouble stemmed from my working environment in the Irish Army Air Corps at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel. The working conditions were horrendous,  we had no chemical training whatsoever, we were issued with no PPE whatsoever and the buildings that housed the chemicals I worked with were asbestos clad brick sheds built by the British in 1915-1918 and were unfit for purpose as they had utterly inadequate ventilation.

Chemicals we worked with in Baldonnel were exceptionally dangerous and were listed as Carcinogens, Mutagens and Teratogens and a number of chemicals in daily use were reproductive toxins and warned of harm to fertility as well as the capacity to cause heritable genetic harm.

My wife and I are definitely one of the luckier couples from Baldonnel, many couples have not been able to have children and will move into an old age that will be lonelier as a result. It is one thing if you don’t want a family but to want a family and be denied it because your employer didn’t give a damn about Health & Safety is galling.

Worse still I believe are the serving and former personnel who have managed to have children but whose children have suffered serious physical & mental disabilities due to their parents unprotected chemical exposure during their service in the Irish Army Air Corps. Many of these chemicals have the capacity not only to harm sperm, eggs and the developing child but also to harm the male &  female reproductive organs increasing the chance of disabled children long after leaving the service.

Infertility is common and on the increase but the levels of infertility or fertility difficulties experienced by male personnel in the most chemically contaminated workshops in Baldonnel appears anecdotally to be as high as 50%.

This is another health effect of the chemical Health & Safety failings that needs full investigation by competent medical & scientific bodies.

Whistle blower who raised concerns over alleged chemical exposures seeks Air Corps inquiry

A whistleblower who has raised concerns over alleged chemical exposures in the Air Corps says the force used five of the same chemicals at the centre of a cancer scandal involving tech giants Samsung.

The whistleblower has compiled a list of 70 deaths of former Air Corps staff that he believes should prompt an investigation into chemical exposures at the force’s headquarters in Casement Aerodrome.

South Korean company Samsung last week apologised for the sickness and deaths suffered by some of its workers after they were linked to chemical exposures in its facilities. Dozens of employees have experienced grave illnesses such as leukaemia and brain tumours.

Samsung and a group representing ailing workers agreed compensation terms after a highly publicised standoff that had been ongoing for more than a decade. The president of its device solutions division said the company failed to “sufficiently manage health threats” at its plants

SHARPS (Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor industry) is a group campaigning on behalf of those who worked in Samsung facilities and subsequently suffered illnesses.

Its website has listed case studies and chemicals used by Samsung, including trichloroethylene, a known carcinogenic used by the Irish Air Corps until 2007.

This newspaper has previously revealed the details of an internal Air Corps memo that said it is possible staff may have ingested Triklone N, a vapour degreaser that contains trichloroethylene,  over a 27-year-period.

The memo said staff could have suffered other exposures because there was no record that protective measures were in place to mitigate the impact of the toxic solvent.

The summary of an internal Air Corps report, compiled in 2014, asks: “Can the Defence Forces be found not to have done everything reasonably practicable?”

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

Department of Defence coy on probe of bullying claims

An air corps whistleblower has been told that it is “difficult to envisage” how the Department of Defence would investigate complaints of bullying made in a protected disclosure about chemical exposure within the force.

The protected disclosure, seen by the Irish Examiner, contains allegations that the whistle-blower was doused in chemicals used to service aircraft as an initiation, and was frequently exposed to chemicals without protective equipment as he carried out his duties in the Engine Shop at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

He alleges that he became ill while still serving in the air corps, but was targeted by superiors for his frequent absences due to sickness.

His complaints match those of a number of other whistleblowers, and the State is currently facing at least seven separate legal actions from former air corps staff who claim they are chronically ill due to their exposure to chemicals at Casement Aerodrome.

A Government-commissioned report by former civil servant Christopher O’Toole into earlier whistleblower disclosures found there was no documentation available to demonstrate that the air corps met its health and safety obligations.

The latest whistleblower called on the Government to launch a fresh review into the complaints about conditions in Casement Aerodrome, and asked that his allegations of bullying be considered as part of this probe.

“My allegations need to be investigated in full as part of a wider investigation into the air corps chemical exposure scandal and the subsequent bullying and mistreatment of personnel injured by the same chemical exposure,” states the whistle blower.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

Study of Health Outcomes in Aircraft Maintenance Personnel (SHOAMP)

A research team from the University of Newcastle (Australia) has completed an investigation into whether there is an association between adverse health and an involvement in F-111 fuel tank deseal/reseal activities and, if so, the nature and strength of that association.

The current health status of those workers was compared with the health of groups of workers with similar backgrounds from Amberley and Richmond air bases.

Yield of literature review

Associations between exposure and health outcomes
  • Cancer
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone Disease and Other Neurological Examinations
  • Other Neurological Outcomes
  • Neuropsychology
  • Reproductive Health Effects
  • Other health effects
  • Health and the Manufacture and Maintenance of Aircraft
Measurement of exposure and outcomes
  • Bio-markers
  • Measurement of Neuropsychological Deficits
Summary of Results and Implications for General Health and Medical Study
  • Cancer
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone Disease and other Neurological Effects
  • Birth Defects
  • Neuropsychology
  • Other Health Effects
  • Biomarkers

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.468.8401&rep=rep1&type=pdf

*****

When the RAAF and the Australian Government discovered there was a chemical exposure problem and associated health problems amongst aircraft maintenance personnel they initiated some health studies one of which became known as SHOAMP. These studies are ongoing and report every 4 years to the best of our knowledge.

Australia does have a Department of Veteran Affairs and operates schemes whereby medical & financial support are in place to support RAAF personnel affected by the F1-11 Deseal / Reseal program.

These schemes are far from perfect and are a cause of ongoing stress amongst Australian survivors but obviously preferable to Ireland where Irish Air Corps sick personnel have to risk their home to take the the state to court while our compassionate medically qualified Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar recently refused medical help for Air Corps personnel in the Irish parliament and goaded sick survivors to sue.

Any person who served in the Irish Army Air Corps needs to read the above document which is the 2003 SHOAMP report. Unfortunately many links on the Australian DVA website are down. As we find newer SHOAMP reports we will make them available. 

Illnesses linked to Trichloroethylene (TCE)

Illnesses linked to Trichloroethylene (TCE) aka TRIKE

https://www.healthandenvironment.org/our-work/toxicant-and-disease-database/?showcategory=&showdisease=&showcontaminant=2341&showcas=&showkeyword=

Solvent exposure and Parkinson’s disease

Shaun Wood worked was a painter and finisher  at Royal Air Force (RAF) bases across the world. During the early 1990s he was involved in the very intensive work preparing Tornado aircraft for the first Gulf War, in particular gluing anti-missile patches to the aircraft. This work was often done in confined spaces over long working hours.  He generally wore a respirator but these were not really adequate for the circumstances.

German Tornado Undergoing Maintenance

Shaun has been diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), which is a debilitating Parkinsonian syndrome that affects the nervous system. He is just 53 years of age.

Throughout his work Shaun was exposed to various solvents, but primarily trichloroethylene and dichloromethane. There is not a great deal of information about exposure to these solvents in aircraft maintenance. I have seen results from a survey carried out at an RAF base in Scotland where dichloromethane levels were measured during paint striping in the cockpit area of a Nimrod aircraft. There was only 1.5 m2 of paint removed, but the peak air concentrations were about 700 mg/m3. Results from three monitoring surveys where the British Health and Safety Executive sampled for dichloromethane during paint stripping on aircraft are shown in the following figure. The mean levels measured in each of these surveys were: 330, 790 and 1,960 mg/m3, and the highest individual level measured was 3,590 mg/m3.

Read full article on OH-world.org A blog about exposure science and occupational hygiene

http://johncherrie.blogspot.ie/2011/12/solvent-exposure-and-parkinsons-disease.html

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Below is a photo of one of the locations in the Irish Air Corps that used Dichloromethane, namely the NDT Shop of Engine Repair Flight. Yes that is a stream of the chemicals dripping out of the extractor fan and running down the wall. And yes that is dichloromethane, cresylic acid and the hexavalent sodium chromate all over the floor. The small barrel that is being dissolved by its contents contains Hydrofluoric Acid.

Some extracts from the Ambient Air Monitoring For Health and Safety at Work report dated 2nd August 1995

  1. Dichloromethane levels were measured in the engine shop in Wednesday the 12th and Thursday the 13th of July 1995 at the behest of Captain John Maloney who is still serving in the Irish Air Corps
  2. The level of dichloromethane found in ambient air in the engine
    cleaning area exceeded health and safety limits. 
  3. Levels of Dichloromethane were measured at 175.9ppm (622.5 mg/m3)  while the TWA health & safety limit for this chemical in 1995 was 50ppm.
  4. Significant levels of all parameters monitored were found in nearly all ambient air samples taken in the engine cleaning area.
  5. The ventilation in all areas monitored was deemed to be insufficient. It is thus recommended that mechanical heating and ventilation systems be adapted designed and installed in all areas monitored.

To summarise, the Irish Army Air Corps knew that Dichloromethane levels in the NDT shop in 1995 exceeded health & safety limits by 3.5 times yet officer management

  1. LEFT personnel of all ranks and none to rot in this exceptionally toxic working environment for a further 12 years.
  2. IGNORED the recommendation to design and install design a proper ventilation system, (they stuck in 2 x Xpelairs).
  3. NEVER re-tested the environment to see if the Xpelair fans worked, we suspect they made things worse by increasing evaporation rate.
  4. NEVER informed personnel of enlisted ranks that their workplace was contaminated to dangerous levels.

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Navy (New Zealand) veteran’s landmark compensation deal has others with Parkinson’s fearing trichloroethylene

Hundreds of New Zealanders may have been affected by a toxic chemical in a wide range of workplaces, a Weekend Herald investigation has found.

The discovery follows a landmark compensation pay-out to a New Zealand navy veteran who proved links between exposure to the solvent during his military service and his Parkinson’s disease.

The Herald reported last month that Veterans Affairs has provided the ex-serviceman with an entitlement to disability compensation for Parkinson’s, a condition attributed to his exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE) while degreasing and cleaning electronics on a Royal New Zealand Navy ship during the 1948-1960 Malayan Emergency.

The Weekend Herald has since tracked down other men who fear their handling of TCE in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s could have caused their debilitating diseases and who now want to pursue their own compensation cases.

A former New Zealand Post Office telephone exchange technician, a naval dockyards apprentice and an aircraft engineer have all spoken about using TCE in their workplaces for years, without any health and safety precautions.

None of them used gloves or breathing apparatus while being exposed to the potent halocarbon that was popular across an array of sectors and workplaces in New Zealand, including garages, railway and aircraft workshops, and other depots.

“Trichlo was strong enough to bowl you over,” said 65-year-old Steve Walker, an ex-New Zealand Post Office employee at the Balclutha exchange, who now struggles with Parkinson’s. “It seeped into your skin, into your clothes. It took over you completely.”

Dave Schafer, a 58-year-old who used TCE weekly while cleaning instruments on Navy frigates during a five-year apprenticeship at the Devonport naval base, said: “Holy cow, that stuff was powerful. But as apprentices you kept your mouth shut and did your job, you didn’t rock the boat.”

Parkinson’s New Zealand, the Returned and Services’ Association (RSA), and those spoken to by the Weekend Herald, all believe there will be many more New Zealanders – hundreds if not thousands – who have been exposed to TCE over the years.

“Researchers have suggested there could be a significant lag time between exposure to TCE and the onset of Parkinson’s,” said Parkinson’s New Zealand chief executive Deirdre O’Sullivan.

“As such, we have reason to believe there could be many more serving and/or ex-serving NZDF people in a similar situation to this veteran.”

The potentially precedent-setting Navy veteran’s decision was made on appeal to the independent Veterans’ Entitlements Appeal Board, which considered appeals against decisions made under the War Pensions Act 1954.

It was made possible by ground-breaking international research including a major 2011 study on TCE exposure that concluded it was likely to result in a sixfold increase in the chances of developing Parkinson’s.

Read more on the New Zealand Herald’s website

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Interesting that the New Zealand Herald article discusses exposure in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. No mention of the 1990s onwards obviously because the industries there using the chemical copped on in the 1990’s.

Unfortunately the Irish Air Corps was still exposing personnel to Trike, (without protection) in ERF / Avionics in the 1990s and well into the first decade of this century and likely elsewhere in Baldonnel & Gormanston

DELAY – DENY – DIE

The tiniest trickle of blood – Another human cost of the Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Health & Safety scandal

The tiniest trickle of blood

My father was an aircraft technician in the Air Corps at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel for 21 years. During his time there he worked on a variety of aircraft and worked with an assortment of chemicals and sprays often without, as he said himself, even glove protection.

Over that time he developed severe psoriasis on his body, but in particular his hands and legs. This resulted in intense itch and pain and a daily routine of medication and treatment of the various lesions on his legs and also a stay in St. Bricin’s Hospital. It was not until a combination of appointments with a renowned Traditional Medical Herbalist, coupled with his retirement from the Air Corps that improvements began. This psoriasis, while appearing at a much slighter level during his life, never appeared to the same extent after leaving Baldonnel.

My mother passed away in 2009, and since then Dad lived with my wife and I, and subsequently, our two daughters. He adored his family and his granddaughters. He also really enjoyed an active and healthy life, learning to swim, regularly walking, going dancing, and eating very healthily. He liked his few social pints but gave up smoking before his first granddaughter was born eight years ago. He also had regular full check-ups with his GP.

In December 2013, while Dad was feeling very well, in great form, he spotted the tiniest trickle of blood in his urine. After attending his GP and a urologist, it was confirmed that he had renal cancer, which had completely taken over one of his kidneys and indeed had also spread to his lungs. Treatment was possible but immediate: he would need to have his kidney removed and a tablet form of chemotherapy would need to be taken for the rest of his life. Thankfully medical advances had developed this treatment, otherwise he would not have survived.

Almost two years passed and Dad had little or no side-effects to his treatment other than his dark hair turning grey overnight. He maintained his life as it was, keeping up his hobbies and his active lifestyle, as well as continuing his breaks to Lanzarote. Unfortunately in November 2015, things began to change and his body rejected the tablet. He became very ill with a litany of mystery illnesses that befuddled doctors but, miraculously, he managed to survive and came home. However, he spent his New Year’s Day in A&E, complaining of intense pain in his back. On examination and scanning, it was found that he had a broken vertebrae due to cancer spreading to his back. Again, thankfully it was in the position that it was, as it was treatable and would not end up with him in a wheelchair. Inserting rods either side of his spine meant that he would walk again.

The last months of his life were a mix of regular check-ups, consultant appointments, progress and setbacks. It was a roller-coaster of emotions where his unyielding positivity was tested repeatedly but never left him. 

It would have been interesting to see if his background in Baldonnel could have informed his treatment, or if indeed anything could have been done to prevent his disease. However such thoughts are merely conjecture and would distract from the magnificent memories we hold of a man who touched so many hearts and leaves behind a legacy fitting for such a character.

Minister of state for defence to probe whistle blower dismissal claim

Minister of state for defence Paul Kehoe has said he has written to the Defence Forces seeking a report on claims that an Air Corps whistle-blower is facing dismissal and that documents key to legal cases against the State were deliberately shredded.

The Irish Examiner recently reported that two separate whistle-blowers told Mr Kehoe that a Defence Forces official ordered the destruction of health and safety reports that showed that the Air Corps’ management of the use of hazardous chemicals was lacking.

On Monday, this newspaper revealed that one of these whistle-blowers is now facing dismissal from the Defence Forces.

In the Dáil yesterday, Mr Kehoe confirmed he was informed of the allegations.

“Certain allegations were made that the documents were destroyed,” Mr Kehoe confirmed.

“I have requested a report from the Chief of Staff on the actions taken on foot of the accusation. When the report is to hand I will consider what further steps may be required to take.

“I didn’t destroy any reports, nor am I aware of anyone destroying any reports but I have asked the Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces to investigate this matter, to find out about these reports and what happened them and to the reasons why they are not kept on record in the Defence Forces.

“Regarding the individual in the Defence Forces and a dismissal, I only became aware of this, I don’t want to say an exact date, but I’ve asked for a report on that issue.”

Mr Kehoe angrily rejected opposition party suggestions that the Government has been slow to address the matter.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website