I picked a fight with a young couple at the hospital today. I got off the bus and crossed the street, and walked through the cloud of cigarette smoke at the makeshift ‘smoke pit’—the area deemed far enough away to be off hospital grounds; the area where sidewalk meets walkway, beside the bus stop about a hundred feet from the hospital entrance. I walked up the walkway toward the entrance and not fifteen feet from the door, sitting directly beside a “No Smoking” sign, a pregnant gal in her wheelchair and her boyfriend were about to light up.
I looked at them both incredulously, and I pointed to the sign that all three of us could clearly see. “You’re not allowed to smoke on hospital grounds,” I told them. She told me to shut up.
“Seriously. There’s a smoking area not a hundred feet straight down this walkway. You’re in a wheelchair for crying out loud. Get him to push you.” She told me she had a right to smoke.
“Ignoring the fact that you’re pregnant and hospitalized, I’m not telling you not to smoke. I’m just telling you you can’t smoke here.” She told me she didn’t care. I told her that my four-month old daughter was inside those walls fighting cystic lung disease and that I had a right to not be exposed to the toxins and chemicals in her cigarettes. I called her a selfish bitch as I walked away in search of a security guard, and I heard her tell me to go f**k myself.
The irony is not lost on me that six months before getting pregnant, I quit my pack-a-day habit so that I could give my child the best chance possible, yet here we are fighting severe lung disease. In the four months we’ve been in the NICU, and in the month of antepartum care leading up to her delivery, I’ve been astounded more times than I can count at the image of a visibly pregnant woman, standing in the rain by the bus stop, puffing away on her cancer stick. It breaks my heart to think that I did everything right, and here she is, throwing it all away. It feels a bit like a slap in the face.
I think I mentioned a few weeks ago, seeing one of Nyana’s nurses out there at the bus stop, puffing away in her scrubs. I’m still baffled that our medical team is telling us that once she’s healthy and ready to come home, we need to keep her away from smokers, yet in the meantime, they’re allowing her to be handled by someone who just came back from their smoke break. A few days ago we modified Nyana’s whiteboard to include a list of dislikes as well as her likes. On this newly added list of things Nyana doesn’t like are dirty diapers, being ignored, and nurses who smoke.
I was a late bloomer—I was nearly 20 when I bought my first pack of smokes. If you’re old enough to buy them yourself, you’re old enough to know better. But I was the child of two smokers and it was inevitable, I suppose. Though, if I had known back then that ten years later, I’d spend hundreds of hours by my daughter’s bedside, praying for healthy lungs, I never would have taken my first puff.
I’m really not one to tell people how to behave or how to act. But knowing how easy it is to quit smoking, and knowing how hard it is to fight chronic lung disease—keep in mind that the BPD Nyana is fighting is not that far from COPD (emphysema) that many adults who have been heavy smokers are fighting—I think I am entitled to stand on my soapbox for just a moment longer to ask Nyana’s army to declare themselves 100% smoke-free.
I never thought that I would be one of those annoying ex-smokers, the ones who walk around all proud, like, I did it. Why can’t you? But that is me, and I do walk around like that, ’cause quitting really isn’t hard. If you want it, and you believe it will be easy, it’s easy. Just never smoke another one again. Let Allan Carr help you out.