Of all the important dates in my life that I can’t remember, this is one I’ve never forgotten, May 24, 1982, the day I quit smoking. I had taken a job where there was an absolute no questions asked no smoking policy. I wasn’t even allowed to become one of the many who had recently been relegated to standing outside for smoking breaks.
I was never a heavy smoker, but I started in the sixth grade. After all, Rodney Wilson smoked, and he was cool, and I had a huge crush on him. So during recess, a few of us would sneak down to the creek for a quick smoke. In junior high and high school, it was an on and off thing. Actually, until the day I quit, I was an on and off again smoker. When I became an adult, I smoked because my grandmother did and I wanted to be just like her. If memory serves me, she wasn’t thrilled that I had picked up her “nasty habit” as she referred to it.
So, why am I writing about this now you ask? Two days ago one of my very closest friends and client Lisa, had a carotid endarterectomy. She’s fifty-eight years old.
Three days before Thanksgiving, Lisa lost the sight in her left eye for a short time. It scared her and her family. Her daughter Sally first comment was, “Mom that’s a stroke.” At about the same time Sally said that Lisa said, “Hey my sight is back.” No one thought much more about it.
A few hours later, it happened again. After the second episode, as Lisa put it, “I was in the bathroom taking a handful of aspirin.” I don’t think she was taking a handful, but I would have done the same thing.
She went for almost two weeks without having another episode. Then while she was getting ready to go to the gym, it happened again. This time she decided to call her doctor. Her doctor’s response, “Lisa, get to the ER now.”
That was a Friday, on Saturday morning both her daughter and I received the following text,
“So, I’m in the hospital. Apparently, that left eye blindness was a TIA, several of them. Having all kinds of tests. This blows!”
For those who don’t know what TIA stands for, it’s transient ischemic attack. Meaning a neurological event with the signs and symptoms of a stroke, but which go away within a short period. Also called a mini-stroke, a TIA is due to a temporary lack of adequate blood and oxygen (ischemia) to the brain.
On Tuesday, Lisa found out her left carotid artery was ninety-five percent blocked. Again, she is fifty-eight years old. The single reason for this, smoking. Her doctors, she has many of them now feel she was a TIA away from having a major stroke.
Lisa has a good forty years of smoking behind her. Yes, behind her. Both the ER doctor and her new cardiologist made the following statement, “You’ve just stopped smoking.” Her cardiologist put it this way, “If you don’t stop smoking now, I won’t help you.”
Before her surgery, Lisa asked her cardiologist if she could have a stroke while waiting for her surgery. His answer, “Yes, but more than likely you won’t for a couple of reasons. One, we have you on aspirin and Lipitor. Two, you quit smoking four days ago. “
Sally has also decided to quit smoking, putting a good twenty years of smoking behind her. Why did Sally start, “It was the cool thing to do in high school.”
No, it is not the cool thing to do. Further, it doesn’t make you look cool, and I hope this is a wake-up call to anyone who is in their teens, twenties, thirties, forties, fifties or whatever your age. The best thing I ever did for myself was to take that job thirty-five years ago.