Victoria’s story – Make Smoking History

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Victoria’s story

I don’t think I would have stopped smoking if it wasn’t for their help.

When 52-year-old Victoria Bailey was asked at a routine GP appointment earlier this year if she’d like some support to stop smoking, she said no. Just a week later, she was admitted to Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport after suffering a smoking-related heart attack.

She said: “I’ve been smoking since I was 15, so when the doctor asked if I wanted help to quit, I said ‘no thanks; I enjoy smoking’, but after my heart attack I haven’t had a cigarette since, because I was told smoking was the biggest risk to my heart.”

Taken by ambulance to Stepping Hill Hospital, Victoria explains what happened:

“I didn’t feel very well, but there was no crushing pain. It was uncomfortable, but my ECGs [electrocardiogram – a test used to check the heart’s rhythm and electrical activity] came back normal. It was only when blood tests came back it was confirmed as a heart attack. It was a massive shock to say the least.”

While she was there, Victoria was asked if she was a smoker. She was then visited by the tobacco dependency treatment team at the hospital to offer support to go smokefree during her stay and beyond.

“The hospital’s specialist stop smoking team came round to see me on my first day in hospital. I don’t think I would have stopped if it wasn’t for their help.

“They offered me nicotine patches from my first week in hospital, and I continued with them following my discharge for about 11 weeks. I did try disposable vapes too for the first couple of weeks, which were useful for having something in my hands to break the habit. But the patches have been really helpful.”

“The team have been really supportive, and positive too. They really made me think about the fact it is quite a big thing to quit smoking after doing it for 37 years.”

“I still crave a cigarette and if that happens, I will get up and do something else and that’s been really good. Sometimes it’s as simple as just a few deep breaths outside and the craving passes. The team gave me these little strategies and suggestions.”

Following her discharge, Victoria is now back at work as a civil servant, taking her new tools and skills with her. She added: “I still take breaks away from my desk, but not for a cigarette. I actually walk in the opposite direction to the smoking area, which I think is important psychologically to form new habits.”

Smokefree for over five months now, Victoria said the influence of friends is what prompted her to start smoking in the first place.

She said: “It was peer pressure without a doubt. I didn’t want to feel left out, but before you know it, you’re addicted.”

However, Victoria now feels her experience has been influential on friends that still smoke. She explained: “I’ve got a group of friends that still smoke. Many have stopped along the way due to pregnancies and things, but one of them is now very keen to give up and because I’ve stopped, they feel it could be possible to stop.”

Another friend, who now uses a vape as a stop smoking aid, gave up cigarettes just three weeks after Victoria, and they offer each other support. But a lack of confidence in her ability to quit meant Victoria had never tried to do so before.

She said: “I enjoyed smoking and didn’t have the belief in myself that I could stop, so I didn’t even attempt it. I didn’t want a failure in life. But the heart attack made me value my life.”

But another big benefit to Victoria has noticed since quitting is the amount of money she has saved so far, which totals to almost £1,500. She’s been able to treat herself to a designer handbag and trainers –

She added: “One of the most positive things I’ve done is keeping one eye on how much money I’ve saved.

“If someone had said to me that I could give up smoking, I would have said ‘yeah, right – course’, but I can now say I’m a non-smoker.

“I’ve not been tempted to go back to smoking because of the shock of what happened to me, but it’s given me the kick up the backside I probably needed. Although it was shocking, it does make you evaluate what’s important.”