If you’re a smoker, you might not want to read this because I’m about to go on a rant…most everyone has heard of COPD and knows it’s a crummy disease, but not everyone knows the end game. I’m going to tell you what I’ve seen.
Do you remember when doctors and nurses used to smoke in hospitals? Or in the physician’s office? I remember. I’m old enough to remember how no one thought a thing of it. Even after the point that we knew what tobacco use meant for our futures, we carried on the habit, so addicted that it made us selfish…selfish enough to expose our very patients to the stuff. Incredible. It embarrasses the heck out of me now, if you want the truth. I chose to be in a profession that helped others, then smoked in lounges and hospital cafeterias with little thought to what I was doing to other people around me. I wasn’t worried about myself…I figured we all had to ‘die of something.’ May as well be related to my seemingly undefeatable habit.
I finally quit when I had kids, and even then, it took me a few years. Every winter I would close up the house and expose my children to carbon monoxide and God only knows what else. I don’t even want to think about it. I’m thankful every single day that I was finally able to beat it. I didn’t know it would still carry ramifications for me years later but trust me when I tell you that my particular issues are easy to take care of and not what I’m here to talk about today.
I want to talk about lung disease…COPD specifically. An absolute killer, folks, and in the most heinous and miserable way. If you are a smoker and have chosen to follow along with this post, please be aware I am going to be brutal now, because I’m mad about COPD.
First, I’m not a physician, but I know a little about this hellish disease, so here goes: COPD is an umbrella term for several progressive lung diseases that include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and non-reversible asthma. Its most common symptom is increasing breathlessness. COPD is a progressive and incurable disease. Get that? INCURABLE.
COPD means the elasticity of your lungs will diminish over time. In other words, your soft, pink lungs, so beautifully puffy and full of air will become like two black cement blocks. What’s more, your diaphragm starts to flatten out and your intercostal muscles become weaker, meaning you can’t cough up the thick, tenacious secretions that are filling your airways. When that happens, bacteria begins to hide in there, so it’s easy to get pneumonia, which may kill you a little more quickly than the COPD will. If you’re lucky. You know – sepsis and all. Oh yeah, friends…COPD takes its good old time…slowly strangling and suffocating you. At the end, the best you can do is call for hospice care and let them help control your symptoms – the overwhelming feeling of being drowned and choked – with medications that we have available to help you.
All those advertisements we used to see were bullshit, if I may be so blunt. The guys who put out those ads didn’t care if you lived or died…they only wanted your money, and to get it, they had to get you addicted. You had to become a slave to their product. They knew what they were doing.
Stop smoking. Stop smoking today. Call your doctor, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant for help. Call a social worker, your minister, or a reformed smoker. Call tobacco treatment specialists – they are out there. The Tobacco Treatment Center at St. Luke’s Hospital has a lot of success in helping people quit, and they never stop trying to help…even if you’ve tried to quit twenty times…maybe the twenty-first will be successful. Call your county health department – they also offer help with tobacco use. Do whatever it takes, people, but quit smoking. Your children do not want to see you with a breathing tube down your throat or see your quality of life drop to zip because of this disease. DO WHATEVER IT TAKES, BUT STOP SMOKING.