Judith Whitehead – Contributing Writer
Many years ago when we decided to start a family, we wanted to keep a healthy environment in our home. We were ardent non-smokers, and asked friends and family not to smoke in our home and tried to keep our boys out of toxic areas.
Back in the 1980s, restaurants and public places had no restrictions on smokers in New York State. Many years later, when it became a realization how dangerous the effects of tobacco smoke were, laws became more strict. No one had to search for non-smoking places any longer. Airplanes no longer had sections for smokers, restaurants did away with designated smoking areas and public places became clear air environments.
As we raised our children, we never imagined they would take up smoking in their teen years.
At first, they wanted to be part of the crowd and after a while it became a daily habit. My husband and I came from non-smoking families and we had never smoked ourselves. Although we tried pointing out the dangers of smoking , and saw many older family members pass away from “chain” smoking, it seemed to have little impact on the boys.
Teenagers seem to have the attitude that they are impervious to smoking and many other dangers they are warned about. When you are young and the world is your oyster,
your health is the farthest from your thoughts.
My youngest son, who is now in his 30s, got a real dose of reality this year. He had been socially smoking since his teenage years and most of the time just smoked as a habit. Taking a break at work and having a cigarette became part of his daily routine – little did he know that along with his family history of heart problems, he was in big trouble.
This year, his life took a major turn. After leading a stressful life, eating pretty much what he wanted and still smoking, he had a heart attack.
It was the shock of his life, along with ours. Whoever thought someone seemingly healthy at such a young age would have that happen.
As it turns out, the cardiologists told us they are seeing more and more young people in similar shoes. Leading stressful lives, not exercising and eating poorly are all key factors that lead to serious health issues.
Working in the health field, I see every day the effects that smoking can have on my patients. Despite all their health problems, they are still smoking.
Our family quickly turned from shock to prayer mode. Thanks to a very talented surgeon, my son began to recover quickly.
Needless to say, that day his life started over was the last day he’s smoked a cigarette. Eating healthy became his new mantra, along with taking the medications that were needed to stabilize his life.
He literally got the scare of his life and all the nagging about eating healthy and not smoking suddenly hit him like a train.
Our story had a happy outcome. We are more than grateful he had the talented help in the emergency room that night that recognized he was having a heart attack and did the proper testing to confirm the diagnosis.
It seems today there are fewer and fewer young people smoking; maybe it’s because the dangers are stressed more – or the cost of cigarettes has doubled in the last 10 years.
Still, the mindset of teenagers are probably similar today; young people often consider themselves invincible.
If you smoke, make a New Year’s resolution to stop. Encourage other smokers to do the same. The life you save may be your own.
Get healthy. I know our family is trying to do just that.
Judith Whitehead, of East Amherst, is a certified ophthalmic technician.