A PATIENT treated for Legionnaires' disease passed on an emotional thank you note to the hero doctor who uncovered the outbreak 20 years ago this month.

Dr William Mitchell was working at Furness General Hospital when he linked patients' severe symptoms to the rare and deadly disease in August 2002.

Two decades on his daughter has shared the story of how he made it his mission to find what was causing patients to be admitted to hospital.

Caroline Biggins described seeing her dad come home 'determined' to find the cause before returning to work in the evening.

She said: "He came home and he was sitting there saying 'something's not right'.

"They were all presenting a certain way.

"He got back up and went to the hospital that evening.

"If he wasn't happy with something he couldn't just let it go.

"He started looking into it, it wasn't a common illness.

"He was determined to find out what it was."

The Mail: The Mail's front page in 2002The Mail's front page in 2002

Speaking to The Mail in August 2002 he played down the suggestion of being labelled a hero and said the trust's response had been a team effort.

He said: "It's team work at the end of the day. I'm only part of a team of physicians but everybody's been involved.

"I hope we have been able to save lives."

Rheumatoid specialist Dr Mitchell worked at FGH for 30 years until his death aged 69 last year.

On the day of his funeral, hundreds of people gathered in applause outside the hospital as the cortege passed by.

More than 15 years on from the legionella outbreak, Mrs Biggins bumped into a Legionnaires' survivor while working in a shop in Barrow town centre.

On finding out Mrs Biggins was Dr Mitchell's daughter, the woman handed her an emotional thank you note.

It thanked the doctor for saving her life, adding: "I'm living it."

Mrs Biggins said: "It's just nice coming up to 20 years after this woman's still appreciated his quick action.

"It's something I'll treasure. 

Mrs Biggins described how her dad was unfazed by the fanfare around him in 2002 after the incident.

"He was such a humble man, he never thought he deserved that recognition," she said

"He never thought of himself as a hero - he was just doing his job."