Monday 22 January 2018

'My husband died at 48 and I knew my kids would be left without parents if I didn't stop smoking, cigarettes would kill me too'

Pauline Bell lost her husband George at 48
Pauline Bell lost her husband George at 48
Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

An Irish mum who lost her husband from a smoking related disease has said she feared she would leave her children without parents if she did not give up smoking.

Pauline Bell’s husband George died while on holiday in Alicante in 2008 and the mum-of-two said her “heartbroken” children Darragh (29) and Rachel (26) were the motivation behind her own effort to quit smoking. George, who was 48 when he suffered a heart attack, had been a heavy smoker for most of his life.

“After my husband died, I knew that if anything happened to me my children would be without both of their parents. They had already been through so much losing George.

“After George, I was smoking so much more than I had before. I was never a heavy smoker, but in the months after losing him, I was eating them, smoking almost a whole pack of 20 a night. I thought I needed it back then. They were my best friend, a comfort to me during such a horrible time.

“At the same time, I knew they were hurting me. I knew they were killing me and just looking at how heartbroken my kids were after losing their dad, I knew I had to give them up for their sake and mine as well,” said Pauline, who lives in Bree in Wexford.

Read more: 10 ways to quit smoking for good

Pauline said her late husband had always been passionate about organ donation, but because he died in Spain this was impossible. The mum said her decision to quit smoking was a way to honour her husband’s wish.

“My husband always said he would give up his organs if something were to happen to him. He always carried a donor card and it was something that he was very passionate about. Because he died in Spain, he never had a chance to do that so I felt that giving up the cigarettes was my way of giving that back to him,” she said.

A year after her husband’s death Pauline made the decision to quit, and urged other smokers to consider the impact your new year’s resolution can have on your life, health and family.

“It was really difficult but health wise I am 100pc a different person. Although I find the smell of smoke repulsive now, I don’t feel the urge to have one when others are smoking around me. I feel so much better. I am so much fitter now and I can swim and walk without getting breathless. It’s made such a different.

“People say we all have a date and a time to go, but I’m not so sure. Smoking contributes to so many things. Years ago, nobody knew how dangerous smoking was but now we have the facts and the science to prove that it is.

“My children are so proud of me for giving up smoking and I’m glad I have,” she said.

Pauline, who is one of the faces of the HSE’s Quit Campaign, said smoking intervention needs to begin at a much more primary stage.

“As great as the Quit campaign is, I think we should be putting more energy into educating schoolchildren about smoking and preventing it from root. So many people pick up smoking as teenagers, I think it would be beneficial to tackle our smoking problem from the ground up,” she said.

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