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About Smoking with Emphysema


There are many folks that although diagnosed with Emphysema, find it very difficult to quit smoking.  They do not know just what can happen to them if they continue to smoke after being diagnosed.  Some suffer from a simple failure to believe that their disease will get worse, some are so addicted to cigarettes that they are willing to "take the chance".  One of our newer members recently asked just exactly what they could expect if they continued to smoke...  One of our members sent the following answer;

I've been reading the Digest for some weeks now, too ashamed to introduce myself because I'm still smoking. I was diagnosed with COPD (CORD in New Zealand - we say "Respiratory) about 5 years ago and was hospitalized with my first exacerbation at the end of May. I was about to fly to London with my sister for our once-in-a-lifetime trip to Britain, so it was all very miserable. I stopped smoking for about 3 weeks, then tried "just one" and now I'm back to square one.

Reading the Digest motivates me to stop, but I haven't done it yet. Can anyone point me to a detailed account of the course of the disease? I get an inkling of what might lie ahead from your letters, but would like the full details spelled out. At present I'm still able to work (as a librarian), but dependent on inhalers 3 times a day. I am 57.

Cheers to all you brave people Heather 

Hi Heather:
You need not be ashamed to introduce yourself because you have not quit smoking. It is an addictive habit and not easy to quit as you have already experienced.  I think I can point out to you a fairly detailed account of the course of the disease as we are not that far apart in age. I am 52.

I will spell out to you what you have in your future.

For one, you will not be working very much longer and just using inhalers.  

Next, You will need to add oxygen to that. Maybe that's when you will quit smoking.

If not you then can add a BIPAP machine to wear at night because your smoking now has destroyed enough of your lungs that they cannot now expel the CO2 build up in them. 

This is probably about the same time you will have to quit working because you will not be able to carry enough oxygen to get you through a full day and I don't think they would like the noise of your concentrator you now have at your house running all the time in the library.  You will not be able to walk around the library much as your lungs will not carry you far enough without stopping to rest many times.  You also will not be able to lift or carry books.  You will need to learn to walk carefully to avoid stepping on your oxygen that you must continuously wear.

This is probably close to the same time your doc is going to ask you to talk to a transplant doctor to see if you are going to qualify for a lung transplant and if you are still smoking then, you will not qualify because they don't give good lungs to someone who won't quit smoking. Wonder why??

This is probably the same time he will give you a guess of about how long you have to live without a lung transplant or a LVRS operation. If you don't know a LVRS is where they will go in and cut you open and remove part of your lungs that don't work to give the part that is left enough room to expand so you can breath. This is not a cure. There is no cure for emphysema! The LVRS operation is only a temporary fix, you will still need a lung transplant later on if you survive.

This is probably the same time your life has made a major change. You can no longer go out on hot days or very cold days because your lungs are not working. There isn't enough of them left from the smoking to keep you alive without oxygen support 24 hours a day. You can no longer wear perfume or be around any strong odors of any kind. You cannot eat large meals any more.
You have to eat 5 or 6 small meals because if you eat big meals your stomach puts pressure on your diaphragm and you can't breath. Also large meals take more oxygen to digest and you can start leaving out sweets and any kind of alcohol for the same reason. You need to stock up on some kind of moisturizer for your nasal passages because the constant flow of oxygen into them will dry them out and you will have daily nose bleeds even with the humidifier.

I do need to let you know of the benefits of continuing to smoke after you have already been diagnosed with COPD. You get to have a handicapped parking permit.
Oh sorry I said benefits...that was plural... as far as I know this is the only benefit.

This means you get to park close to the doors of some establishments IF and when you go out if you are able to do so. You will have your portable oxygen with you so it is going to be a lot of trouble to go anywhere. You will find out even with a handicapped parking sticker you will bypass some stores because the parking places are not close enough to the doors and it is just too hot to walk the 40 or 50 feet from your vehicle to the door.

Oh yea, you will probably want to get a van instead of a car because it is really hard to bend over. You get short of breath bending over. You will also want to get one of those handy grabber thingies so you don't have to bend over and be sure and get shoes you don't have to tie. Velcro is better. Not very stylish but who cares now. You can't breath and that's all that matters. You don't care about impressing anyone anymore. You just want to breath.

You can forget hot showers or hot baths, you can't breath where there is steam. You will have to be super careful and not get a cold because with your lung condition it will probably turn to pneumonia and you will end up in the hospital a lot. 

By this time you may have decided it is time to quit smoking. TOO LATE!

You get listed and find out the wait is 2 years and you wonder if you can wait that long. You can't breath now.

You have to quit now because you need the operation or your prognosis is 5 years or less. 

You just found out you are going to have a new grandchild or you have just found out your best friend is having a baby and you are the godparent and you realize you will more than likely not see that child graduate. 

You are only 57 and you realize how young you really are and you have so much living to do.
I just pretty well explained to you my life. I am 52 and waiting for a double lung transplant. I cherish every minute of every day. I did not quit smoking in time. 

You have a better chance than I did. Quit now and start exercising and get on the right track with your life.  You have a good chance to not get much worse IF you quit smoking right away!!!!  You can keep your job and continue with your way of life and will likely not reach the stages I have.

Smoking is easy. Living is hard but a lot more important.
Life is good, don't let it go up in smoke!!!
God Bless Heather and God give you the strength and wisdom to quit smoking.
keep on keepin' on Tony in Dallas 


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