Providence Care is currently working on becoming a smoke-free facility to align with Bill-45, introduced by the government as part of the Making Healthier Choices Act, that will restrict where individuals can smoke on hospital property. By 2018, all hospital properties will be required to be 100% smoke-free.
When I sat down with Debra, she said she needed to do something before our interview started. She grabbed something out of her purse and put it on the table – her very last cigarette. “No sense in having this anymore” said Debra. She had been holding onto it for the past 31 days, “Just in case” she felt the urge and really needed to smoke. Before I knew it, the cigarette was split in half.
For over 40 years, Debra was smoking 2 packs of cigarettes per day. She always thought she was using cigarettes to cope with her anxiety. Debra has now been smoke free for 31 days, with the help of the entire team of staff on Unit 3; nursing, pharmacy and allied.
When Debra was first approached regarding her smoking, “her facial expressions were amazing, she looked at us like we had 10 heads!” explained Laura Tuepah – Occupational Therapist, who has been instrumental in leading Debra through this process. Debra’s initial reaction to this was “I really didn’t think it was an appropriate time to quit smoking because my anxiety was already so high. I thought this was the worst time in the world for them to be asking me to quit or reduce.” Debra was willing to reduce, but she felt upset at the idea of quitting at first.
Debra’s mindset changed after she received the results from an EKG that she had when she first came into hospital. “It showed that I had had a silent heart attack. During my highest anxiety point, I was smoking a lot. This was a real wake up call and red flag for me. I am 60 years old and I could have had a real heart attack from all of this smoking that I was doing,” says Debra.
With the help of NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy), specifically the Patch and Lozenges, Debra was on a new journey to quit smoking. Her original goal was to cut down very slowly, but she surprised herself. “On step 1 of the patch, I cut down pretty dramatically. I went from 2 packs a day to only 7 cigarettes a day almost instantly” she says. There were plenty of people encouraging Debra along the way including her daughter and staff members.
Debra has followed a mantra that was passed on to her from Laura: Don’t quit quitting. “I wish I would have quit smoking a long time ago but I didn’t succeed then, although I tried,” explains Debra. She has previously tried to quit 4 or 5 times with the use of Champix and Zyban.
Since quitting, Debra is already feeling the health benefits. She says “my breathing is already getting better. I was able to make a trip to the store the other day and didn’t have to stop once. Before, I would have had to stop 2 or 3 times.” Additionally, her sense of smell is much better and her taste has returned.
A helpful tip from Debra is to download an app on your phone that is specifically catered to helping people quit smoking. The app that Debra has tells her how much money she has saved, how many cigarettes she hasn’t smoked, how many cravings she has had and more. She believes that this is a positive motivator to keep going now that she can look back and see how far she has come through the app.
The process of quitting smoking has taken Debra just over 5 months. She is still surprised at how quickly it has happened, as smoking was a part of her life for over 40 years. She referred to smoking as a companion or friend. “That cigarette is there for you through good times, bad times, everything. It is like a friend or a pet and all of a sudden it is gone. There has definitely been a mourning process and a lifestyle change,” adds Debra.
The staff at Providence Care continue to encourage those who smoke to kick their habit and are so excited and proud to see clients living healthier lifestyles after successfully quitting. Way to go Debra!