Sharing an anniversary

I have an announcement to make and then I am going to nag at some of you. That is your warning. If you simply cannot take it anymore, it is time to move to another page. My announcement is that Monday was the 10th anniversary of my first heart attack. I have squeezed 10 extra years out of this heart and I am grateful. If I am still around in July, I will celebrate the 10th anniversary of my bypass surgery. And I will be even more grateful for that.

I bet you know what I am going to say next, don’t you? I am going to tell you that I just about killed myself on three separate occasions from March to July of 2004. Of course, those of you who know me know what I was doing to put myself out on that suicide ledge, don’t you? Yup, I was smoking … still.

I will have to backtrack here to the first heart attack. I was not a cardiac patient at any hospital. On March 10, 2004, the ambulance took me to Newton where I was stabilized and sent on to a Wichita hospital. I caught the cardiologist on call. I had a heart catheterization and the good doctor carefully inserted two stents and parked me in an intensive care unit until dawn the following day. Before I was dismissed he came in to discuss my follow-up care. He had sheets of printed material with instructions for medications, diet, exercise, and many other topics including smoking.

I said to him, “So you will expect me to quit smoking now, right?” His response was, “Well, I know that is a hard thing for longtime smokers to do, so if you could just cut down, that would probably be ok.” Woo-hoo! It sounded to me like I was on the road to kicking back with a cigarette whenever I wanted! Okay, take me home, I am ready to be checked out of here, I am dying for a smoke and then I will “just cut down.” Sure.

Neither he nor anyone else told me that smoking is a sure way to make a stent fail. His statement about “cutting down” gave me the leverage I wanted to keep smoking while pretending I was not being really stupid.

A couple of months later I was a candidate for bypass surgery following my third episode and I at least knew to ask for a different cardiologist. The one I had was not tough enough on me and I was close to death because of it. I also was lucky enough to find myself first in the emergency room at St. Luke Hospital in Marion where the savvy physician’s assistant on call said to me, “You might want to seek a second opinion” when I told her why I was still smoking.

After the bypass surgery and a week in a Wichita hospital, the surgeon who performed the operation told me on dismissal that if I ever had another cigarette … ever in my life … I would die. Well, that is a bit different from, “So if you just cut down, you will probably be ok,” don’t you think?

And I have not had so much as a puff. Do I miss it? Not anymore, but I did for a short while. If you quit, will you miss it? Probably, for a short while. However, you won’t miss it nearly as much as you will miss drawing a breath on a great morning in the spring of the year, seeing your children or grandchildren take their first steps or graduate from high school, enjoying your life and activities way into the eighth or ninth decade of your life, and doing a thousand other things. Reasons to just suck it up and do it.

We are at the end of the nagging part. I have said all of this before and I will say it again, if you do not smoke, do not start. If you smoke, quit. If I could do it, you can do it.

Happy anniversary to me! I am grateful for 10 additional years. If you stop now, you could end up with 20, 40, or 50 additional years. Go for it. You will not be sorry.

— SUSAN MARSHALL

 

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