Isobel Gall: Award-winning bus driver's death 'devastating'

Written by on January 7, 2020

The father of a bus driver whose battle against cancer inspired an awareness campaign says he is devastated by her death.

Isobel Gall died on New Year’s Eve from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, aged 29.

Driving buses was her “dream” job and she beat 250 others to be named Bus Driver of the Year in 2018.

Services in the West Midlands carried the slogan #WeStandWithIsobel to help spread the word about her condition.

“She wanted as many people to learn about it as possible,” said her father Roger Gall.

His daughter, of Brownhills, had been a bus enthusiast for years before she began driving National Express double-deckers around Walsall in 2015.

Three years into her career, she became the first woman to win Bus Driver of the Year and was asked to go to Germany to take part in an international competition, but fell ill three weeks later.

‘Why my Isobel?’

In August 2018, Isobel was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma – a rare form that affects the lining of the abdomen.

It is caused by exposure to asbestos and usually affects people aged over 70, according to the British Lung Foundation.

“It was such a rare disease. We had to do a lot of research. To hit somebody so young, it was devastating,” said Mr Gall.

“I’d think ‘why my Isobel?’ Why did she get it? It’s always the good people.”

It is thought Isobel might have breathed in asbestos fibres around the ages of six to eight.

The material was used in different products and buildings from the 1950s to the mid-1980s – including homes, hospitals and schools – but it is not known where she came into contact with it.

Isobel had several successful rounds of chemotherapy and went back to work, but the disease returned.

She however continued to raise money for Mesothelioma UK and attended the charity’s conference in Blackpool last year, while her friends in the transport community organised the #WeStandWithIsobel campaign on social media.

It was picked up by other bus companies which put up posters on their services and carried the slogan on their blinds.

Isobel, also an artist and violinist, had a couple more rounds of chemotherapy but “her body couldn’t handle it any more”, said Mr Gall.

Following her death, many passengers and bus companies paid tribute on social media. Mr Gall said her friends and family were proud of her determination to raise awareness of mesothelioma as she fought it.

“She wanted as many people to learn about it as possible,” he said.

Phil Bowen, operations manager at National Express West Midlands, said the company was “very sad” to hear of Isobel’s death.

“She was an excellent driver and a very well liked member of the Walsall team and the wider bus enthusiast community,” he said.

“On behalf of colleagues across the business, I’d like to pass on our sincere condolences and thoughts to Isobel’s family and friends at this very sad time.”

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