A Life Lost to COPDIn part one of this story, Donna, a member of the About.com Smoking Cessation support forum shared the tragic story of losing her father to lung cancer. Just months later, Donna and her family were forced to face the death of their dear mother to COPD, though she never smoked a day in her life.
According to the American Lung Association, secondhand exposure to cigarette smoke is responsible for 3,400 lung-related deaths annually. It is more than likely that living in a smoking home for years upon years was a major influence in the development of the COPD that eventually stole the life of Donna's mother.
Thank you for sharing your very personal story with us here Donna. Smoking-related disease is the most preventable cause of death on the planet today, and I know your account will make a difference to every person who reads it.
My mother passed away on Thursday, January 14, at 1:30 pm. I was blessed to be there when she passed. My sister called me on Wednesday, and asked me to stay with her and Mom until "the time came". I didn't think twice...I hopped into my vehicle and drove the hour north to my parents' place.
My mother's condition had steadily worsened over the last week, and even Hospice nurses marveled over my mother's will to live over the last few days. She was no doubt in agony, and each breath was taken at the result of great personal pain. There are some end-of-life symptoms which are inherent to kidney failure, but those of COPD are unmistakable...My mother gasped and twisted her head for each tortured breath. During the last two days, when she sank into a coma, the Hospice nurse took her oxygen tube and placed it in her open mouth. She lost the ability to breathe through her nose.
The Hospice nurse looked at us and said, "It could be tonight or tomorrow. I'm almost tempted to stay here, I'm fairly certain she'll go tonight." We told her we would be okay, and she reluctantly left.
I spent the night there. My sister slept in a recliner next to the hospital bed, and I lay on a twin mattress on the floor in the room. I spent the night wavering between a restless sleep and groggy wakefulness, when I would look at the bed and watch my mom "point" her head as she struggled.
Dreams tortured what snatches of sleep I stole. In one dream, my mother threw off the blankets, dropped the bedrails, and hung her thin legs over the side of the bed to look at me. "You know," she chirped, "I think I'm going to get out of here today." She then looked around, and a cloud of uncertainty shifted over her features. She sighed, glared at her oxygen tube tether and said, "Oh, never mind. I think I'll just stay in bed." And she lay back down again, covered herself, adjusted her oxygen tube, and resumed her comatose state. I awoke to see Mom's prone, sleeping form, and I shivered. The dream had seemed so real.
Dawn just couldn't come soon enough.
As the day progressed, my mother's breaths became shallower and shallower, and the period of time between breath longer and longer. Finally, after a long exhalation, no further breaths came.
It was over.
My sister went to the kitchen and lit a cigarette. I stood on the back porch, and with dry eyes felt my whole being start screaming. I have never felt so alone as I did the day my remaining parent passed away. I am now truly alone in the world.
None of us can, with full certainty, determine when and how we will end our lives. My mother was no exception. She did not choose to die of COPD, nor did she choose to smoke...Her death from a smoking-related disease was from second-hand smoke from my father. Through this incredible sorrow in my heart, I'm at least comforted that she is no longer suffering. She is no longer in agony.
There ARE some things each of us can control. We can control whether or not we smoke a cigarette. We can control our exposure to others' cigarette smoke. We can lobby our legislators for stricter laws regarding tobacco products, and for laws which assure our right to clean air, and even start calling for an outright ban on tobacco.
Please make no mistake, tobacco kills in horrific ways. I am 36 years old, and yesterday, I lost my parents within 10 months of one another, and they both died from tobacco.
I have seen several posts at the About.com Smoking Cessation support forum where new quitters have found, within the words here, the ability to stay quit for one more day. Please, please understand, what you fight isn't just an addiction. It's a certain death you are avoiding. By not smoking, you are reducing your risk of cancer, of COPD, of emphysema, of macular degeneration, of heart disease, of limited blood circulation...The list goes on and on and on.
And so, I have changed my destiny. I ask you to do the same. I challenge you to NOT take the chance to be that "other person".
Please, if you are thinking of lighting up again tonight, don't do it. Use the resources here. Fight your way through your quit. Cherish those clean breaths, protect them, and love those you are with for everything you are worth. Don't torture your loved ones with a death like I've described in this thread. Break free of your addiction, and change your destiny, too. You'll never regret it once you get to the "other side". I promise.
If you're still smoking please use the resources below to get a head start on your quit program.
Quit smoking now.