October 20th, 2008

Why I Quit
By James Castwell

I met the late Mel Krieger several years ago at a fly fishing show. Quaint little chap, always wore that white hat to cover his thinning dome. He was the only person who ever, after casting a favorite Gatti fly rod of mine said it was terrible and had no power, way too soft. He did however say one of the most memorable things to me at a later show in the state of Washington. "Just quit smoking Jim, just quit." It seems he had quit smoking because of a recent heart attack he had. And, do you remember nearly the same words from Yul Brenner on T.V.? Looking straight at the camera, just before he died. "Just quit smoking!" Powerful images in my mind yet. Edward R. Morrow can be in the same list too I suppose. So I did for my fifthtieth birthday, 1985, I quit as a present to myself.

Starting when I was twelve, and cigarettes cost little more than a dime a pack, I had continued with them into my twenties. Camels were my choice and there was a clever metal frame for packs then that popped open at the top. Cool stuff and I was if nothing else, cool. Later on I went to a pipe for many years. Remember Douglas Mc Arthur and his corn-cob pipe? I sure did. My dad smoked a regular corn-cob pipe too, the cheap ones. I tried them for a while. I progressed to a metal pipe with a corn-cob insert, even my fishing buddy smoked one of those things. We had several inserts and would interchange them to let them dry out. Naturally I acquired a few other pipe styles, never anything terribly fancy, but did have a cheap calabash once. Heavy, hung down, smoked hot, hurt my jaw. No idea where it went.

Started back into smoking before I hit my sixtieth birthday. Had my first heart attack in 1995. Hospitalized for a few days for a clot that had stuck in the lower part of the pump. Seems to have healed up just fine now though. I think I can still remember the taste of the first cigarette when I got out of the hospital. Kewl.

I guess it might have been four or five years ago I started to have some heart trouble of a different kind. Fibrillation or such. The thing would just start to clatter like an Johnson 5 horse when you turned it too sharply. Went to a couple of 'heart' doctors who really seemed not to have any ideas how to control the problem. After spending a year of that I finally got to a good 'heart' guy (in Seattle) who put me on some pills (digitek) that should prevent the episodes from starting up. They would kind of 'put a governor' on my heart and keep it under pressure so it wouldn't take off like the outboard motor thing did. It worked for quite a while but I sure got out of breath fast. I could walk on the flat but up hill did not work well.

So I went to yet another doctor; a 'lung' guy. He tested me and told me that my average oxygen level was down to about 86 percent and I had C.O.P.D. Once you have that condition you never get any better he said. Congestive etc, etc, etc. Oh goodie. They even had an oxygen machine set up here at our house. Told me to be careful and not to smoke around it, could blow up. On and off, I tried to quit smoking but with short lived success. During that period my problems with the fibrillation seemed to dissipate a bit though and I asked my heart doctor about it. He said I could try to cut my pills in half and see it that amount would still hold it. I did and the half seemed to work.

And then one day I made it. I quit smoking all together. No idea how I did it. Just did. I think it was about a year and a half ago, still no real desire to get back to them. But my problems were not over.

I still was running at an average of 86 percent oxygen ( I have a little cube that slips over a finger and reads out the oxygen and pulse level) and I got out of breath doing almost anything. Six weeks or so ago I saw my him again and asked what might happen if I quit the digitek pills altogether. He said my heart might start going fast again but I could always get back on the pills if it did. That was on a Friday. By noon on Saturday I felt better. Tested my oxygen. 93 percent.

Been like that ever since. Oh sure, it varies, everybody's does but I no longer have a 'governor' holding my heart back. Now when I need it to speed up and get some blood flowing faster it does. My life has changed much to the better. By the way, this was the weekend right before the Idaho Fish In, 2008.

In discussing this with my normal 'health care provider' she said, well, sure, you removed a whole lot of stimulants. What stimulants, I asked? SMOKING. NICOTINE. It's a DRUG! It's a STIMULANT. It's what had been making my heart fibrillate all along. Why hadn't any of the doctors mentioned it? Should any of them said, "Look jerk. Smoking is what is making your heart run too fast. It's a drug. It might kill you!"

Did they know?

If they did, why didn't they say so?

Should they have said so?

Should they have known?

But now I know.

And, Now You Know Too.

That's why I quit. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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