Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Slowly and deliberately a cigarette gives smokers immediate satisfaction.
Now picture that swirl of smoke upon exhale creeping around your body and taking hold, like a tight hug. It grips your heart and won’t let go – literally squeezing the life out of you.
Unfortunately Cathy Porter, age 61, can relate all too well. She smoked at least a pack a day for 20 years. It caught up with her the day before she turned 45. She was in Manhattan, KS, watching her 12 year-old son, Denver, participate in Odyssey of the Mind (an academic problem-solving competition). During a lunch break at a local diner, she thought she had severe heart burn and turned lightheaded.
“I instantly thought to myself, ‘This can’t be a heart attack. I’m too young. I don’t have pain in my arm. Plus, I’m a woman,’” Cathy says. “I had no idea that heart disease in the leading killer of women, and I was almost one of them because I smoked. Nicotine has power over those who use it. Everyone knows there are serious consequences to smoking but thinks, ‘It won’t happen to me.’ Guess what? It does.”
Cathy’s heart attack was caused by a “crack in the plaque.” Hard and soft plaque attaches to the lining of arteries. Sometimes smokers’ soft plaque can pull away from the lining, causing a tear that bleeds. In Cathy’s case, the blood backed up into her heart resulting in her heart attack.
“It’s an absolutely terrifying experience,” Cathy says. “In the hospital I didn’t want to go to sleep because I wasn’t sure if I would wake up. All I could think of were my two kids. I could not leave them. I quit smoking right then and there because I was too scared of dying.”