Emphysema, The Killer That Attacks Everyone

Nineteen years ago, I lost my biological father to emphysema. At the time I didn't know what emphysema was. All I knew was that my father smoked 2 - 3 packs of cigarettes a day.

Now that I have gotten older and wiser, I looked up emphysema and this is what I discovered.

Emphysema is a lung disease that attacks the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs and causes them to be not able to completely deflate. Therefore they are unable to fill with fresh air to supply the body with oxygen.

Cigarette smoke is the most common factor of developing emphysema. Even people that don't smoke but are exposed to cigarette smoke are capable of developing emphysema.

The symptoms of this illness are: wheezing, shortness of breath, chronic coughing with or without the production of sputum, decreased ability to exercise, anxiety, unintentional weight loss, and fatigue.

When I read these symptoms on Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia, I thought back to my father and my entire life that he was alive. He showed all the classic symptoms from my earliest memories to the day he died.

I remember the coughing. I remember the lung collapse. I remember the wheezing. I remember my mother walking the floor at night. I remember the last day he lived. I remember seeing him in the CCU, all skinny and pale looking.

I remember being the last one to speak to him before he died.

I remember Mom fainting at the funeral. I remember having to help hold her up. I remember my best friends being there and them taking me out afterwards to try to get some food in me and to try to get me to rest.

All I kept thinking about was Mom. She didn't know how to balance a checkbook, nor did she know how to do the taxes. I dropped out of college to help her. I went back once my next to oldest brother moved into the house. But all the time, I kept thinking of what I could do to protect her from the dangers of the world and help her even though she was the mother and I was the child.

Now that I fully grasp all the dangers of smoking, I have quit smoking since my last column, "Cigars vs. Cigarettes" and I am feeling better health wise. Everyone knows someone that has died of this disease or has been diagnosed. If you are a smoker, please stop. Don't make your children go through what I went through at age 19.

Published on August 26, 2006 in