The ‘Real People, Real Stories’ campaign profiles local people from around Otago and Southland who are living with serious long-term health effects from smoking. People will hear from the ‘walking wounded’, those who, for example, struggle to breathe, are unable to walk upstairs. Their voice of experience may well motivate people to start their journey to freedom from nicotine addiction.
Despite the known dangers, tobacco smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease, killing around 5,000 New Zealanders every year. 16% of adults currently smoke in New Zealand with rates for Maori at 35%, Pacific people at 25% and youth 18-24 years at 20%.
Hayley, 51 from Dunedin first tried smoking when she was 12 years old and by the time she 15 and working, she was a smoking heavily. Hayley says over the years smoking just became part of her life. “Everyone was smoking”.
In 2014 Hayley was diagnosed with a lung disease. She was coughing a lot and on inhalers to help her breathe. For a period of time Hayley was in denial about the harm smoking was having on her health, and the more family and friends told her she should stop, the more she dug her heels in and continued to smoke. Hayley did eventually try to stop smoking. “ig up smoking wasn’t an easy thing. It took me a lot of goes” says Hayley. She tried hypnosis, nicotine gum and lozenge. They didn’t work. Champix did however help her eventually, on the second go. On 15 March 2016, Hayley was smokefree.
The damage to Hayley’s lungs was already done and by 2017 she was on morphine to help with her breathing. By 2018 Hayley was attached to an oxygen machine for 16 hours every day. The eight hours each day off the machine Hayley would try and do regular activities like watching her children play sport. However, it usually became too cold for her and she would end up having to sit in the car. “Life was so restricted - I felt like an embarrassment to my children”.
Hayley went on the transplant list for new lungs, and in October 2018 she had a double lung transplant. Her family were nervous about the operation but Hayley was excited about all the possibilities new lungs would give her. Hayley describes the first breath she took when she came around after the operation as being amazing - “I did not struggle.”
Today Hayley is off all the oxygen and so appreciative of her new life. Her medical team says she is ready to go back to work part-time. “To be able to go outside and do things is wonderful. I appreciate life so much more now. I do regret smoking but I can’t change that I did, so I am not going to dwell on it. Looking forward is important. I have a life now, and I am going to make the most of it,” says Hayley