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Paul's Quit Smoking Story

"As a smoker of nearly 30 years, 2 packs a day had weakened blood vessels..."

By Paul Webster-Hughes

Updated December 19, 2012

Paul's Quit Smoking Story

Paul Webster-Hughes

I am a teacher of computing and English Language. I am also the proudest father on the block of a beautiful 2-year-old daughter named Jennifer, and husband to May, a gorgeous Thai lady of infinite charm and intelligence. I consider myself a blessed man.

I found the About.com Smoking Cessation forum in August 2005 and committed to a smoking quit date of 21st August 2005, with superb support and reinforcement from the members of the forumily, the active participants of the board.

This is my story about why I quit:

My wife, child and I were on our semi-annual visit to my wife's family for a week's rest and recreation between my teaching assignments. On a stormy afternoon, I collapsed heavily to the floor of my in-laws home. I lost complete muscle control of the left side of my body from cheek to ankle and lay there, helplessly watching my young daughter screaming from across the room. I was sober, drug-free and had turned 43 years old 2 weeks earlier.

My wife and mother-in-law rushed in from the mountain terrace outside and managed to drag me into a sitting position in a chair.

I couldn't speak...just slur "S'Ok...s'Ok";...

I had no feeling down my left side, which meant I had to be propped up like a drunk, wedged between furniture and people to keep me upright. I have clear recollection of being fed soup, tea, being wrapped in a blanket and watching the proceedings unfold around me in a detached manner.

The gathering tropical storm unleashed torrential rain and winds. A truck was commandeered and we careered 13 km through sodden jungle down treacherous, sliding mountain trails to take me to the local hospital. Three hours after collapsing, still ignorant of my condition, I was wheeled into an Intensive Care Unit, a further 100 km north in Chiang Rai near the Myanmar (Burmese) border.

Numerous X-Rays, CAT scans and similar procedures showed that I had suffered an ischemic hemorrhage, or stroke - a bleed in my brain. My subsequent collapse had increased the damage by cracking my skull a little at the same time. A 3.5 cm radius of burst blood vessels had allowed blood to leak into my skull and brain cavity.

As a smoker of nearly 30 years, approximately 2 packs a day had weakened blood vessels, "furred" the actual surfaces; reducing blood-flow and causing said veins and arteries to contract. The poisons in the cigarettes, together with a party lifestyle, alcohol and soft drug use like marijuana had put me at risk for having a stroke, I was later told.

My condition was too acute for surgery and the body was going to have to "plug the leak" on its own, and quickly. My survival was given as 50/50 over 24 hours, depending on how quickly the bleeding stopped.

I remember listening to my wife, May, singing softly in time to the various machines hooked to me it seemed. I listened to the docs explain my grave condition to May, and I, unable to participate, just grunted and nodded with effort. I was, in effect, a paraplegic, totally reliant on others to turn, clean, and coordinate my ragged right-sided, clumsy efforts. I am naturally left-handed and it felt as though I had been amputated from neck to foot!

I suffered the inevitable indignities of being prodded, poked, punctured, pawed and similar - but most importantly, 24 hours later, further X-rays showed that the bleeding had ceased and pressure, though strong, was now constant on my cracked skull.

Though I may write this dispassionately now, I can vividly recall every smell, comment, supporting nod, glance, smile, tear or touch from countless people; doctors, staff, family, friends and strangers through the next 10 days and 2 hospitals...though each ICU bed looked the same to me, just a different view from the window. Those memories carried me through a lot of subsequent pain and healing.

The most painful memory, on reflection, is my insistence on hobbling to window or balcony for a smoke, hooked to cylinders, various drips and on one occasion, wheeled out in my bed! My family hated my smoking habit, but refused to add to my stress at that time by badgering me to quit.

Paul's Story - Page Two
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