Wigan mum who almost died pleads with smokers to quit

A Wigan mum who had smoked for almost four decades decided to kick the habit for good after nearly losing her life.

Wednesday, 23rd December 2020, 1:20 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd December 2020, 1:24 pm
Lisa Fildes. Picture by Ian Wallman

Lisa Fildes, 49, suffered a heart attack, stroke, multi-organ failure and sepsis in June 2018, which left her in a coma for four-and-a-half weeks.

It inspired her to address her smoking addiction and change her life so she would be able to spend many more years with her four sons.

Lisa, who lives in Hindley, is sharing her story as part of Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership’s New Year quit campaign.

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The Don’t Wait campaign launches on Monday, ahead of the New Year when many people are thinking about attempting to quit and making resolutions to improve their health and well-being.

Lisa, a customer assistant at a supermarket, said: “I started smoking when I was 10. I smoked 20, up to 30, a day – first thing in the morning, last thing at night - to cope with stress. I am asthmatic and live with type-one diabetes, which has been unstable for the last 25 years.

“In June 2018, I had a heart attack while at home with my children. My eldest son called my husband Craig, who dashed home and performed CPR until the ambulance arrived. I was blue-lighted to hospital and spent weeks in a coma. I nearly died. It was a terrifying time for the whole family and my husband stayed by my side the whole time. It makes me really sad to know that Craig and my boys went through all of that.

“After being so ill, I was determined to stop smoking and stayed quit until December 2019, when I had a few puffs of a cigarette and relapsed. My children and family hated that I’d started smoking again, but it is such a powerful addiction.

Lisa spent more than four weeks in a coma

“During the start of the pandemic, I had to shield due to my health condition and was smoking more at home. It was a high-stress environment, but I had developed a nasty chest infection I couldn’t shift so I knew I had to do something.

“I contacted my stop smoking service and my advisor helped me to make a plan and we discussed different ways to quit. My advisor was fab, she would ring me every week to make sure I was okay and was there any time I needed advice or just to let off some steam. I tried lots of different things, such as patches and gum, but due to my existing health condition they affected my blood sugar levels. I was determined to give up, so in the end I found vaping worked best for me.

“Looking at my kids and remembering just how poorly I was keeps me motivated. I don’t want to end up back in hospital. I want to be around for my boys and my husband. Although I still struggle with my breathing, I am feeling brilliant; I can taste and smell again and I’m back at work.

“It absolutely breaks my heart knowing that smoking probably caused the heart attack. But when you start smoking, you don’t realise how strong that addiction is. I am just so grateful now for every single day with my family.

“My message to anyone who smokes is please don’t wait – give quitting a go now. If I can do it, then anyone can do it. There are so many options to help you quit and seek support. Don’t waste all that time getting ill, wasting your money, taking a possible life away from your children or your family. It’s just not worth it.”

Every year across Greater Manchester around 5,212 people die too soon from a smoking-related illness. In 2018–19 there were 27,904 hospital admissions for diseases that were wholly or partially attributed to smoking in people aged 35 and over.

Smoking damages the lungs and immune system, making it harder to fight infections like chest infections, flu and the coronavirus.

It also increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, COPD, stroke and cancer.

The Don’t Wait campaign features a powerful plea from respiratory consultant Dr Ruth Sharrock, who has spent the last nine months caring for patients with Covid-19.

It will run on TV, radio and social media until mid-January.

During the previous phase of the campaign around 80 per cent of smokers took a quit-related action, with nearly one in 10 of all smokers successfully quitting.

A third of smokers were encouraged to take action by friends or family who had seen the campaign.

Dr Tom Tasker, GP and interim chairman of the Greater Manchester Medical Executive, said: “2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for everyone, but it has been inspiring to see that many smokers have taken action to improve their health, finances and quit for their loved ones.

“The campaign highlights some of the amazing individuals who have bravely shared their stories, in the hope that others don’t have to experience the suffering they have been through.

“Our message to people this New Year is not to give up on quitting. We know that it can take a few quit attempts to stop smoking for good, but the benefits start from the moment you stop so please give it a go. It is the best New Year’s resolution you can give yourself – put the past year behind you and make a positive start to 2021.”

Tips for quitting include downloading the Smoke Free app for advice, finding the right support for you, remembering why you are quitting, distracting yourself with other activities and looking at how much money you have saved.

Visit YouCanGM.org to find details of stop smoking services and support across all 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester.

Alteratively, call the NHS Stop Smoking helpline free on 0300 123 1044.

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