A foggy decision

Effects of long-term smoking


Photo by Tabitha McAfee

Mike Thompson reflects on youth’s decision to smoke. Health complications has led him to giving up this harmful habit.

Story by Ashlyn Winters, staff writer

Decisions we make have consequences that can show up later on in life. This was a reality that caught up with former smoker Mike Thompson a few years ago.

At the age of 19, he began to smoke cigarettes and continued to do so for over 40 years. The health problems that came as a result of smoking hindered his day-to-day life. Namely through the constant presence of an oxygen tank that became a daily necessity.

“Walking was a chore because I’d run out of breath. Going to the mailbox, getting the paper, sitting down and standing up and showers were really hard on me,” Thompson said. “I still have a lot of limits now, even after the transplant. I have to watch people I’m around, and I have to wash my hands a lot to protect myself from bacteria and viruses.”

When Thompson’s doctor warned him about early signs of emphysema, he was not as concerned as perhaps he should have been for fear of a much more harrowing development in his eyes: cancer.

“I didn’t quit smoking when he first told me, but now I realize that I should have. I couldn’t quit because it was so addictive,” Thompson said. “The emphysema just progressed and got worse [gradually]. I had a breathing episode back in 2012 where I quit breathing and had to go to the hospital. It was very scary, [like I was] having an allergic reaction. I couldn’t breathe, and I turned blue.”

Not only did emphysema affect Thompson’s health, but his family as well. Complications with his health prevented him from spending time with them.

“It was hard on everybody because I couldn’t go out and see my family much when they came over because I could have gotten sick. Before I got the transplant, I was on oxygen full time, and it was hard to make my grandson’s baseball games,” Thompson said. “I worry a lot about what I’ve put my wife through and how tough it’s been on my kids. I missed out on a lot when we would have family time. I would leave and go outside to smoke.”

In May 2018, Thompson received a lung transplant after being on a five-month long waiting list. The recovery process took about four months. During that time, he was away from his family and loved ones so that he could prevent any possible viruses from spreading into his new lung.

“I am very lucky that I was able to get a lung because a lot of people aren’t as lucky,” Thompson said. “I’m very blessed that I was able to get a lung because somebody out there [had to donate] their organs.”

Thompson has a word of advice for today’s youth who want to take up smoking.

“The lungs are something not to mess with. They’re the organs that take everything the environment has and put it in your body. They are very sensitive,” Thompson said. “My advice is to watch your environment, do not smoke and if you’re around somebody smoking, get away from them.”