Friday, May 4, 2007

Quintuple bypass, heart valve replacement, and kidney failure: What heart disease and secondhand smoke mean to me, Part I

Hi, I'm Jennie. When Liz asked me to start writing on the SmokeFree Wisconsin blog, I knew immediately how I was going to introduce myself. Here's my story.

A year and a half ago my Dad, Henry, had a quintuple bypass and a metal valve placed in his heart.
After his open heart surgery, his kidneys failed completely and he was put on dialysis. What does this have to do with smoke-free issues you ask? Everything.

My Dad is 56. He is an average 56-year old guy who could stand to lose a few pounds, but he's never been obese. He walks our dog twice a day for 10-15 minutes and he eats his vegetables. From age 16-45 my Dad was a pack-a-day smoker. Thankfully he quit 11 years ago, but he continued to work and socialize among smokers. Smoking and secondhand smoke were not the only reasons his heart failed to pump blood, but they contributed heavily to the condition he was in.

Heart disease is the Number One cause of non-accidental death in the United States, and smoking and secondhand smoke are significant contributors to the disease. I'm not going to go into the detailed facts; if you want to know numbers click here.

What I want you to know is that heart disease is real and traumatic. Often we don't realize that life's daily subtleties can have huge ramifications. And even when we are being conscious of making the right decisions for ourselves, sometimes other people are making decisions for themselves that negatively affect us.

I have hope that not every family will have to endure what mine went through with my Dad, and they shouldn't have to: many of the causes of heart disease are completely preventable. Smoking, and especially exposure to secondhand smoke, are two of those preventable causes. Wisconsin has the opportunity to take a stand in the fight against heart disease and reduce, and in the case of secondhand smoke, eliminate these risks. For my Dad and yours, it is time for Wisconsin to be completely smoke-free.

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