Monday, September 21, 2015

My Journey into Advocacy - Stepping Out of Romance For a Moment

When something steps in and changes your life drastically, you find yourself surrounded with thoughts about that change.  For me, January 7, 2015 was that moment.  Being rushed to the Emergency Room unable to breathe, thinking that my life was about to end, I thought about all the life choices that led me to that point.  The one that completely altered my life course?  Smoking.  For 25 years I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day.  As someone who worked as a Respiratory Technician for seven years, I knew first hand the risks, but couldn't seem to make myself give up the habit.

Like most people I knew the risks after I became an adult, but turned a blind eye to the fact it could eventually kill me. Growing up as a teen in the 80's smoking was considered cool.  The majority of my friends who were fifteen and sixteen at the time smoked.  Ads like the ones below were common. (Obviously I don't own rights to any of these photos)

                     


My Diagnosis?  COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).  What does it feel like to have a COPD flare up?  Imagine trying to breathe through a coffee stirring straw and you get the idea.  The first time I had one of these "flare ups" I thought I was dying.  I'd exacerbated liquid into my lungs and in my mind I was drowning.  To make matters worse I was driving down a deserted road at that time and knew without doubt no one would find me and my life would end on that road with no one coming by to save me.  Obviously I survived, but that was the beginning of a violent cycle that changed my life completely.

I thought that incident was a fluke, and that I'd simple choked on my drink.  Then a month later it happened again.  That incident was the one that sent me to the Emergency Room.  My blood pressure was obviously through the roof (something about thinking you're dying does that to a person) and it took a staff of great people in the hospital to finally get my breathing regulated.  I spent that night in the hospital and the next morning underwent pulmonary function testing.  Needless to say a life time of smoking had seriously damaged my lungs.

I made the decision that day to stop smoking.  There is no cure for COPD but with life changes it can be managed.  The hospital started me on nicotine patches, and for a day or so those worked but I seriously felt like I was losing the battle.  I've never done street drugs, but I'd heard enough stories about people that had tried to fight their battle with addiction that the withdrawal from smoking seemed just as bad.  Thankfully a friend I talked to on facebook told me about vaping.

I'd seen a local vape shop in my little town, but passed it by for a  year thinking it was a fluke.  When you're about to give up a battle to save your life, even a fluke was worth a try, so I stopped in.  At first the shop reminded me of those head shops I saw in Panama City when I visited, and it was a little comical to me.  I called up my facebook friend while in my brick and mortar and she talked the clerk through a setup that she believed would work for me.




Eleaf istick 20w with an Kangerteck Aerotank V2.  I paired that up with some ejuice called Cowboy that reminded me of the tobacco flavor I was using while smoking.  It's been almost 40 days and I haven't picked up a cigarette since.  In less than two weeks I stopped coughing *there was an adjustment time while my body got rid of all the chemicals I'd put in my lungs from smoking all those years*.  After one month?  I could breathe like a normal human being again.  All of that was positive, so why wasn't my physician encouraging other patients to try vaping instead of smoking?  Education about the positives of using e-cigs as an alternative.

This is where the advocacy comes in.  First let me say that Big Tobacco doesn't want you to stop smoking.  It's not in their best interest, or your states public health interest.  Why?  Let's take California for example in this video.




Another question to ask yourself.  Why has the UK release reports that E-cigarrettes are 95% less harmful than smoking and the US hasn't stepped on board to do the same?  Read the report for yourself here:  https://www.gov.uk/government/news/e-cigarettes-around-95-less-harmful-than-tobacco-estimates-landmark-review

"Emerging evidence suggests some of the highest successful quit rates are now seen among smokers who use an e-cigarette and also receive additional support from their local stop smoking services.

Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England said:

Smoking remains England’s number one killer and the best thing a smoker can do is to quit completely, now and forever.

E-cigarettes are not completely risk free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm. The problem is people increasingly think they are at least as harmful and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting. Local stop smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely."



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