‘IT IS like being smothered by a pillow – it is too late for me and I know I am going to die.’
That is how former heavy smoker Denise Shambrook describes the feeling when her lungs start to give up and she can’t breathe.
In her younger days, the 62-year-old from Denmead was a competitive athlete running 800m and 1500m in the All England Trials. These days she can barely walk 20ft.
Matters get worse when her lungs begin to fail – an attack known as an exacerbation.
Married Denise said: ‘Having an exacerbation is like drowning alive. It overtakes your whole body and you can go into a panic mode quite quickly.
‘It is too late for me and I know I am going to die so now I am just waiting for life's pillow. There is no word in the world that describes how scary that is.’
She has been in and out of Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham with her health problems including emphysema, a type of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
Now lying in a hospital bed on National No Smoking Day she wants people to realise the damage and throw away their next cigarette.
Denise said: ‘Even just one cigarette has a negative effect and I want people to see what has happened to me and understand that it is not worth it.
‘Every cigarette you put in your mouth is shortening your life because of the toxins that you can’t see.
‘I have lost so much weight and I used to be a lifeguard but now I can’t even swim because I can’t breathe.’
Denise started smoking after she was hit by a drink driver and had to have several operations on her spine.
She said: ‘I started smoking because I thought it would take the pain away but it just became an awful habit. My husband and my brother smoked as well so you just don’t even think about what it is doing to your body.’
But the day Denise found out she had COPD she stopped after smoking 20 a day for 30 years and sought help from the QA team and Rowans Hospice, who helped keep her active.
She said: ‘I just completely stopped. That was fifteen years ago and yet the choice I made is still affecting me. You never think it will happen to you, you think it will happen to somebody else.’
She also says without the support from her husband, family and friends she would have not got this far through treatment.
It comes after QA Hospital banned all smoking on site on January 14 this year.
With tears in her eyes Denise added: ‘The bad thing is that with the COPD every exacerbation you have, your lungs become weaker.’
‘For every exacerbation you have you back down the snakes and ladders and you end up at ground zero and you have to climb back up again with all your resilience with what you have been taught.
‘Building your breathing back up and your strategies up of how to breathe. It is incredibly hard and very very tiring.’
Portsmouth university student encourages other to quit smoking
A STUDENT from the University of Portsmouth is encouraging people across the city to get help and quit smoking.
Ivette Guell began smoking aged 18 and smoked on average ten roll ups a day but in September last year she decided enough was enough and sought help from Portsmouth City Council’s Wellbeing Service.
The 28-year-old said: ‘I wanted to quit smoking because I knew it wasn’t good for my health and I’d been smoking for 10 years already.
‘I tried to quit once before by myself but it was awful and I only managed three days but my Wellbeing Worker Tony was brilliant and really encouraging. We met weekly at the Guildhall Walk surgery and he started me off with patches and an inhalator.’
Ivette quickly gave up the inhaler moving on to patches with a reducer dosage before giving them up entirely and carried gum to help in case she had the urge to smoke again.
She said: ‘The biggest factor for me though was the weekly support as I wanted to be able to tell Tony each week that I was still smoke free. I took it one day at a time, which really helped me as it didn’t feel as daunting as saying I’d never smoke again.
‘I feel so much better for quitting and my family are really proud of me. Giving up smoking spurred me on to become healthier in other ways as well and Tony supported me to improve my diet and start doing more exercise.’
Ivette has since lost two stone and wants others to make use of the Wellbeing Service in the city.
She added: ‘Changing your lifestyle isn't always easy, especially quitting smoking, but having someone supporting you like Tony made such a difference and I’m really grateful to him and the Wellbeing Service.’
Portsmouth City Councillor Matthew Winnington, cabinet member for health, wellbeing and social care said: ‘Ivette should be really proud of what she’s achieved. I’m so pleased that the Wellbeing Service was able to support her to quit smoking and embrace a healthier lifestyle.
‘Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do for your health and wellbeing if you’re a smoker and evidence shows that you’re more likely to succeed with support. I hope that Ivette’s story will inspire others to start their journey to being smoke free this No Smoking Day.’
The Wellbeing Service can be contacted on 023 9229 4001 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
DOCTOR Alex Hicks knows more than most the effects smoking can have on the body and hopes Denise’s story will help to deter people.
Dr Hicks, who is a consultant respiratory physician at Portsmouth Hospitals Trust, said: ‘It is frustrating when I see people come in again and again because there is only so much we can do for them.
‘Even if they have stopped smoking, those years of cigarettes have already taken their toll we can only give them exercises and breathing strategies to help.’
Last year 1,171 patients were admitted with exacerbations thanks to COPD.
Dr Hicks said: ‘Although the number of people smoking is going down, we are now seeing the people who smoked 20 or 30 years ago and so the number of patients admitted is increasing because of that.
‘It is sad to see people get weaker due to exacerbations.’
Death rates due to smoking in Portsmouth are significantly higher than the national average with approximately 1,000 deaths from 2014 to 2016.
The Portsmouth Hospitals Trust Research and Innovation team are currently looking for volunteers with COPD to take part in The EXHALE 1V study, which has now recruited over 200 participants.
This research study is looking into COPD can be diagnosed from healthy lungs – but more volunteers with COPD are needed. Anyone who completes the study will be paid £10.
For more information contact Jessica Gates on Jessica.Gates@porthosp.nhs.ukor call 02392 286000 ext 3990.