Ten years ago today, I quit smoking.
However, I did not know that at the time. I was in a long and often sleep. It kept away the pain, which is what some very good doctors intended.
A bit after midnight on this date in 2002, I lost consciousness while behind the steering wheel of my truck as I was stopped at an intersection in Uptown Butte, facing downhill. I had been driving home from my workplace, The Montana Standard offices.
Apparently, my right leg then stiffened and pushed the gas pedal to the floor. The truck was stopped by a power pole a couple blocks away.
Both of my legs were shattered. All but two of my ribs were broken. I also suffered wounds to the liver and small intestine, a punctured lung, dislocated ankle, injured tendon in a wrist, damaged teeth and some cuts and bruises.
I was fine, Butte’s terrific emergency workers saved my life and a leg that was in danger of being amputated, I was later told. Miraculously, too, the streets were just about empty and I didn’t hurt anybody else.
Thankfully, one young man was walking through the area, witnessed the crash, flagged down a motorist, borrowed a cell phone and contacted emergency personnel. I never got his name but I vaguely remember him sitting with me and talking to me while responders were heading to the scene.
Dr, Vincent Siragusa, a brilliant cardiologist who has since passed away, came into my St. James Healthcare room and warned me:
“You can either quit smoking or we can do this again sometime,” he said in the first week of my 37-day stay.
I had suffered a heart attack while driving and cigarettes were determined to be a contributing factor.
A year in a wheelchair followed, about 15 to 20 surgical repairs, a month in a walker, another year and a half on crutches, time with a cane and three and a half years without being able to drive.
I have an artificial knee, about as much titanium in my legs as can be found in most golf course pro shops and I often limp. But I’m alive, I walk and I work.
Doctors named Siragusa, Gallagher, Gould and Blavatsky were among the professionals making normal life possible for me. Other heroes include Dr. Bartoletti working to save my teeth, Mike McGree and staff holding me together at the crash scene and helping me to stay alive and rushing me to the hospital, and physical therapist Melanie Rosa getting me off my back and onto my feet, helping me to walk again. There were many more, including the other responders to the crash scene and the hard-working staff and dedicated nurses at St. James, and, of course, my family.
There was also the community, one that kept my hospital room full with visitors cheering me up and not letting me fall into depression, bringing gifts, sending cards, bringing meals to my family, making my house handicap accessible and donating to my medical fund. What good hearts we have in the part of the world. My co-workers were wonderful, too, and my sports staff was terrific, carrying on through its busiest season and still making time to fret over me daily.
So, when I emerged from the hospital, I had quit smoking. I’d like to boast that I did it cold turkey but, in reality, it was more like warm turkey or cold pigeon. I didn’t smoke because I couldn’t.
I still don’t and am thankful for it. Also, I’m thankful for the little aches and pains constantly with me as it means I can feel, that I’m alive.
Ten years ago, there was some doubt. Thank you all so very much. 5 comments