Letter for Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Nothing good comes from smoking

On Labor Day we would have been celebrating my Dad’s birthday. Barbecue, angel food cake with strawberries and vanilla ice cream. And lots of good stories. Instead we remembered him at a barbecue in Koke’e.

Daddy died in 2011 of COPD and emphysema. His father died of emphysema. I suspect that smoking played a role in the deaths of all four of my grandparents as they all smoked freely. No one thought anything about it; it’s what adults did.

Daddy started smoking as a teenager. His father told him it would be good for him, it would help his asthma. He smoked until he was in his late 60s or thereabouts when a car accident in California shattered his lower left leg. He was flown home to Washington state where my husband and I arranged an ambulance to pick him up at the airport and transport him home, where I stayed to care for him until my Mom and brother were able to take over.

He was then moved to a hospital in Seattle and Mom moved in with us; Mom visited him daily. The doctors put his leg back together using bone grafts, skin grafts and muscle grafts and told him if he continued to smoke he’d lose his leg. He stopped cold turkey but his leg never completely healed; an open wound that wouldn’t close required daily tending and Mom did the tending until his death.

By the time he passed away, he was on oxygen full-time and could barely walk from his chair to the dining room table or the kitchen. He dragged that oxygen hose with him; he carried a portable unit when he left the apartment to go to the doctor, pretty much his only outing. Hospice caregivers came to their home to help my mother, who was then wheelchair-bound. For the last six months of his life my brother and I took turns taking care of our parents, flying from our respective homes; then she moved in with my brother.

I’m not writing this for any sympathy or any comments about how good my brother and I were to our parents. I’m writing this as a warning against smoking. I watched Daddy shuffling around the Assisted Living apartment and remembered camping trips, vacations, moving from Kansas to Washington when I was a kid. Most of all loving us and providing for us.

I have never smoked but now I have asthma, probably because of all the smoking I was around as a child and young adult. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me but when I get respiratory illnesses it’s a factor in my recovery. It was also triggered by blowing dust in Arizona this summer and the dusty roads on Kaua’i.

And so I make my point. If you smoke, please stop. If you don’t, please don’t start. For it’s not just you who is affected but those around you as well. Just think about it.

Susan Campbell, Kalaheo

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